EZ-Rider sees major driver shortage in December
Throughout December, patrons from Odessa and Midland who rely on public transportation from EZ-Rider have been without service for nearly half the month.
According to posts from the Midland Odessa Urban Transit District EZ-Rider Facebook page, at least one route in Odessa or Midland has been completely closed or had to close early 13 times over the last 23 days of service.
EZ-Rider’s reason for the route closures is due to a shortage of drivers.
“Just recently within this past month, it has been more difficult to continue certain routes due our driver storage,” EZ-Rider general manger Gennie Garcia said. “This all hit within the second week of December.
“My team has been short for a while, but my team has done a good job of making sure those routes were filled. It has come to the point where we just can’t fill them anymore with the amount of people we have.”
On Friday morning, EZ-Rider posted routes three and five would be closed, while inbound and outbound on routes two and three, respectively, would also be unavailable.
EZ-Rider provides public transportation to about 1,200 people per day in the Odessa-Midland area. The company currently employs 20 drivers for bus routes and Garcia said they need between eight and 10 more drivers for a bus schedule that runs from 6:15 a.m. to 6:10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:15 a.m. to 4:10 p.m. on Saturday. Bus routes are closed Sunday.
“We are currently hiring and we are starting at $15 an hour, which we increased from $13.50 last year,” Garcia said. “That helped us increase our driver numbers, but we are still seeing a shortage at this time. It’s difficult to compete with wages in the Permian Basin. We are looking at ways to retain with bonuses throughout the year.”
One route that has been continuously affected by the shortage of drivers is route five, which spans 42nd Street to Second Street and JBS Parkway and County Road West.
Between December 7, 8 and 10, route five was completely closed, while on Dec. 11 it closed at 9:15 a.m. due to driver shortage. In the 13 days of EZ-Rider’s limited service in the Odessa-Midland area, route five has been affected nine times.
“This is affecting our reliability and our reliability is something that we want to honor,” Garcia said. “It has affected the transit in Odessa and Midland. This isn’t something we want to continue, but it’s an adjustment that we have to make right now.
“If I can ask the public to be a little bit patient, I know it’s hard to request that because this is what a rider would depend on to get to work or a medical appointment.”