Charlotte’s buses could face more cuts, firings if reliability doesn’t improve
A letter sent to CATS bus operators calls out attendance problems and threatens consequences
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte’s bus system is still racking up hundreds, if not thousands, of missed trips in a week, according to a letter sent out by the general manager of the company contracted by CATS to operate the city’s bus system.
According to the letter, the City of Charlotte is already making contingency plans for additional service cuts, which could result in bus operator layoffs unless the contractor “can stabilize service levels going forward.”
WBTV first reported last year that the city’s bus system is operated by a company called RATP Dev; a fact most city council members were unaware of at the time. The WBTV Investigates team also revealed thousands of missed trips impacting riders.
The letter, sent to operators late last week and obtained by WBTV through multiple sources, claims driver absences are to blame.
General Manager Steve Hamelin wrote that 23 operators are already in “point trouble for attendance” and rule and policy violations from bus operators “ultimately cause them to terminate their employment with our organization.”
“If we are unable to get operators scheduled for work to show up and complete their assigned duties eliminating missed trips altogether, we can plan on seeing deeper service cuts from planning that will include the minimum loss of at least forty (40) bus operator positions and this figure could go higher,” Hamelin wrote.
CATS bus operators, who spoke with WBTV on the condition of anonymity, said that Hamelin’s letter is not striking the right tone with their group and operators are doing their best under the conditions.
Charlotte’s bus drivers are employed by RATP Dev and not the City of Charlotte.
“Is this manipulation or intimidation?” one operator said about the letter.
“If that’s the true number (23 operators in attendance trouble) that percentage would be very low,” another operator wrote in a message to WBTV.
CATS reported there were 497 total bus operators in June of 2022.
Another operator claimed that the new work assignments for operators have made scheduling difficult.
“When the new contract was passed they made the run assignment very hard and changed peoples’ schedules,” the operator wrote.
Earlier this year, the SMART union that represents CATS bus operators avoided a labor strike by signing a new contract with RATP Dev.
In his letter, Hamelin wrote the new collective bargaining agreement should be enough motivation to improve attendance.
“That now makes TMOC operators the second highest paid bus operators on the East coast, I am extremely disturbed by the attendance, absenteeism, and missed trip information I see,” Hamelin wrote.
Hamelin said he’s been having lengthy discussions with CATS officials and “they are deeply concerned that we will not be able to deliver service as expected this fall.”
CATS reduced bus service frequency last August citing a shortage of operators.
WBTV previously reported how CATS officials were not holding RATP DEV accountable for missing performance goals but the city has threatened fines for the contractor not hitting targets in the contract.
The city’s contract with RATP DEV is set to expire next year and other transit management companies are already exploring a government bid to takeover.
WBTV reached out to both CATS and RATP DEV officials to comment on this report but neither have responded by the time this article was published.
Copyright 2023 WBTV. All rights reserved.