Ottawa

Overtime costs soar as LRT delay drags on

OC Transpo's overtime costs have soared by more than 30 per cent as it struggles to find enough drivers to keep buses running while the city awaits its delayed LRT system. 

OC Transpo spent 30% more on OT last year than in previous 12 months

OC Transpo has had to scramble to keep buses running as the LRT delay drags on. That's meant paying more in overtime to drivers. (CBC)

OC Transpo's overtime costs have soared by more than 30 per cent as the city struggles to find enough drivers to keep buses running while it awaits the delayed LRT system. 

Between May 2018 and this April, OC Transpo drivers worked just over 379,000 overtime hours, nearly 88,000 more than they did over the previous 12 months.

That cost the transit agency $17.3 million, about $4.2 million more than it spent on overtime the year before.

That money does not include incentives and bonuses the city is offering to encourage drivers to take on the extra hours, which have cost the city an additional $6.6 million, according to a recent memo. 

Keeping service reliable

The city's director of transit operations, Troy Charter, said it's using overtime to ensure bus service stays as reliable as possible. 

"This is just some of the options that we're employing to provide reliable service to the customers, because they've been through a lot over the past couple of years," Charter said. 

Despite those efforts, however, OC Transpo has struggled to maintain reliability, with cancellations and delays mounting in recent months

The city handed layoff notices to 345 transit operators last August. At the time, the Confederation Line was expected to be up and running by November. That deadline and several subsequent ones have come and gone, and it's now hoped the trains will be running by September. 

Many of those layoff notices have since been rescinded, but some drivers have moved on to other jobs. As of June 1, the city had 76 fewer drivers than it had in April 2018, and overall there are 140 job vacancies. 

Hard to fill spots 

Charter said the unexpected LRT delays have compounded OC Transpo's problems.  

"We've been watching our hiring very carefully, and we knew from the beginning that, where possible, we'd hold some vacancies and do some creative things, and one of them being overtime," he said. 

Charter said the city would like to hire new drivers, but can't guarantee long-term employment with the LRT launch on the horizon.  

"We've noticed as we've gotten closer to the launch date ... it's become harder to recruit people," he said. 

The city plans to bill back the increased costs it's incurred due to the LRT delay to Confederaion Line builder Rideau Transit Group.

In the meantime, Charter said he expects overtime costs to continue growing.

"We're doing the best we can, and we will continue to do the best we can until we get the rail line up and running," he said.

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