As of April 2022, NYC Transit has a workforce of of over 7,700 train operators and conductors. NYC Transit subway train runs continue to be canceled every month due to a shortage of both train operators and conductors. This is due to the devastating impact of COVID19, combined with the prior shortsighted policy of canceling training classes for new employees.
It takes three months for conductors and eight months for engineers to be fully trained. Even after resuming training classes over one year ago, NYC Transit is still short hundreds of train operators and conductors. As a result, MTA Chairman Janno Lieber now admits that they will not be fully staffed until late 2022 or early 2023. One wonders how many trains may have to continue to be canceled until the end of 2022 before this shortage of critical employees is finally resolved.
NYC Transit should have the ability to hire part-time employees to deal with peak service requirements. This might have provided a larger pool of employees resulting in far fewer canceled trains. Another option is upon reaching retirement eligibility, allow employees to collect 50% of pensions while still being able to work part time. Why not include both in the next round of contract negotiations between management and the unions? The same should apply to Long Island Rail Road train engineers, conductors, ticket office and other various specialty craft trade employees.
Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office.