KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Driver shortages continue to take a toll on Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, but the union representing those drivers says they will likely vote "yes" on a new agreement between them and KCATA.
"We've been rightfully criticized for service delivery, we have to own that," said Frank White III, interim CEO at KCATA. "But now, it's like how do we get more operators hired? Obviously, the more people get hired, the better we can improve the service."
The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1287 represents KCATA's bus operators.
They say the shortage has taken a toll on their drivers who are putting long hours and are impacting routes which increase wait times.
Will Howard is the Local 1287 president, and says drivers have also reported being assaulted while on the job.
"If you're not treating operators, you beat them up, they don't want to come to work," Howard said. "And then if you're not paying them right, well there goes another element."
KCATA estimates they are short about 100 bus operators.
Terrance Morris has been behind the wheel of one of KCATA's public busses for the past 16 years.
Morris said he's been impacted by the shortage even though he's picking up more people than ever before due to public transit being free.
"Sometimes they (riders) can be kind of troubling, they just ride around and give bus drivers a lot of trouble," Morris said.
White says he understands Morris' frustrations and has been working with the union in drafting up a new agreement and to make KCATA a place people want to work for.
"We heard your concerns, increased starting pay, better benefits, better stuff on the back end, we'll work through the safe safety conditions and safety standards and make a good agency of choice," White said.
Both Local 1287 and KCATA are being tight lipped on what terms are being negotiated, but Howard believes his union will accept the new agreement.
"They were impressed, they liked what's going on and the new change and we look to have a yes vote," Howard said.
However, safety continues to be top of mind for Local 1287.
As of now, two KCPD officers are contracted by KCATA to keep their transit system safe.
The agency also has a separate contract with Titan Security Group, but the union says more needs to be done.
Howard says he's been in talks with Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II in addressing the issue and potentially involving federal police.
"We want federal police you know, we want people to know that you cannot assault our operators, this is not a game," Howard said.
Morris hopes riders will understand the challenges that the shortage is causing.
"Be patient with us, because we deal with a lot and sometimes it could be taken out on us people, but just be patient," he said.
If you would like to apply to be part of KCATA visit their website.