PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) is being forced to make service changes to almost a third of its bus routes due to an “unprecedented labor shortage.”

In an effort to bring more employees through its doors, the agency held a job fair Wednesday at its Elmwood Avenue facility.

The agency is hoping for at least 15 applicants to come out to the job fair.

CEO Scott Avedisian said RIPTA is currently short about 30 drivers and struggling to recruit new ones. He also said nearly 60 drivers have retired since the start of the pandemic.

The driver shortage has had a big impact on the community, causing numerous disruptions to its daily bus routes, including those that both pick up and drop off students across the capital city.

Starting Saturday, Oct. 22, service frequencies on various routes will be temporarily reduced. No routes will be eliminated, RIPTA said, and early morning, weekend, and holiday service will not be impacted.

The agency said it’s working to offer incentives for new hires, including competitive salaries, full benefits and additional time off.

The starting rate for drivers is about $17 but the agency is currently negotiating with Amalgamated Transit Union Division 618 to increase starting hourly pay.

However, even if all the drivers needed to resume full service are hired, RIPTA says it will still take time to train them. The agency does offer free CDL training but notes that it takes at least four weeks to complete.

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