CATS hosts job fair in effort to reduce delays due to driver shortages

CHARLOTTE — The Charlotte Area Transit System is taking new action to bring relief to people who count on CATS to get around.

Channel 9 has reported for months on driver absences and long waits for passengers. CATS hopes its job fair Tuesday will help bring in more workers, and in turn, help with the delays.

Since June 22, more than 1,500 bus drivers have called out from work -- 82 of those absences were just Monday. In the past 24 hours, CATS sent Channel 9 the following statement:

“Our bus operator absences are due to a multitude of reasons such as planned vacations, childcare issues, leaves of absences and unplanned absences. In addition to daily absences, CATS, like most organizations across the country, is still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts, including the labor shortage. Route impacts can vary daily, we encourage our riders to download the CATS-Pass app to get real-time information about their bus routes or call CATS Customer Service.”

In June, CATS CEO John Lewis said 292 bus operators were needed Monday through Friday. With so many drivers calling out each day, it’s caused delays for riders like Johnny Hall, who spoke to Reporter Glenn Counts in June.

“Well this past week, I’ve been pretty late for my job cause of the bus, really,” he said.

CATS says riders can use its CATS-Pass app to check the status of their bus routes, or they can call customer service.

What solutions are in the works?

John Lewis said that his department is trying to find solutions. CATS is working to increase salaries and benefits for bus drivers. Lewis also wants to cut down the number of allowed absences drivers get per year.

Riders said they just want to see change quickly. When asked if she thought the delays were drivers’ faults or management’s, rider Colotta Torres quickly replied.

“You know, I think it’s a little bit of both,” she said. “You say ‘plan my trip,’ I plan my trip but I’m still waiting.”

The CATS job fair will be held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. It’s happening at the bus garage off South Tryon Street.

Bus routes 2 and 15 will provide free rides to the fair.

Attendees can learn about open positions and be part of on-the-spot interviews.

Rider Lashakia Witherspoon said she’s glad to see CATS making an effort.

“It makes me feel good because we need stuff like that and not only that (but) job fairs are good for people to try and get jobs. Most people don’t have jobs. It’s been real hard since the pandemic,” Witherspoon said.

Rider Antwain Jenkins said he hopes the bus fair will make a difference with wait times, especially amid the harsh weather.

“It’s really bad out here trying to get back and forth to work, doctors appointments, and the weather has been so hot. It’s kind of hard on people,” Jenkins said.

(WATCH BELOW: CATS proposes solutions to long wait times)