The Signal

City transit hits speed bump

COVID-19 related reasons force 20 employees to miss work, including 17 drivers

- By Caleb Lunetta Signal Senior Staff Writer

City of Santa Clarita Transit officials were forced to temporaril­y pause two trips on Monday after 20 employees, including bus drivers and call dispatcher­s, called out of work due to COVID-19-related reasons.

“We did have 21 call-offs today, 20 of which were COVID-related, but that doesn’t mean they are positive for COVID,” city spokeswoma­n Carrie Lujan said, adding that 17 drivers, three dispatcher­s and one call center employee called out on Monday. “This is a temporary challenge that we will mitigate as soon as possible.”

According to Lujan, none of the callouts were due to a bus driver testing positive or being exposed to the virus at work, but were due to possible exposure outside of the workplace, side effects to the vaccine and/or someone in their family testing positive and needing to be cared for.

After receiving word about their absent drivers on Monday, officials at Santa Clarita Transit temporaril­y paused operations for Route 4 departing LARC Ranch to the Newhall Metrolink Station at 1:15 p.m. and 3:15 p.m., and Route 4 departing Newhall Metrolink Station to LARC Ranch at 2:15 and 4:15 p.m.

In order to help solve some of the issues stemming from a lack of manpower, the city has announced its plans to bring on a handful of new or temporary drivers to help fill the gaps in bus scheduling, Lujan said.

“The contractor (MV Transporta­tion Inc.) has committed to loaning us four drivers for the next two weeks,” said Lujan. “We also have a class of seven trainees that started today, three of which have a commercial license. MV also has 11 applicants going through qualificat­ions.”

Since 2013, the city has contracted with MV Transporta­tion to provide local and commuter bus service.

Less than a month ago, exactly 17 city bus drivers — representi­ng approximat­ely 20% of total driver assignment­s for a typical weekday — also called out of work due to COVID-related reasons. Last year, The Signal reported that one city bus driver had died and four others had tested positive as a result of being exposed to COVID-19.

As recently as three days ago, on Friday, city transit officials said a driver shortage had caused them to temporaril­y pause operations for Route 5 to Stevenson Ranch departing at Soledad Canyon Road and Sierra Highway at 3:06 p.m., as well as Route 6 to Stevenson Ranch from the same location at 3:47 p.m.

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