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.