GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Last week, some bus routes running to and from Glens Falls had to be suspended, as a pair of drivers stepped away from their positions. One retired, and the other contracted COVID-19 and is unable to work.
In the meantime, routes running to Hudson Falls, Fort Edward and along Glen Street are only operating half as often during the week. Routes 4, 11 and 12 have shifted to less frequent operation, with some buses coming once per hour instead of twice. Despite the last several years seeing no shortage of employment issues, this is the first time that Greater Glens Falls Transit has had to suspend any of its buses.
“Over the last couple of summers, the CDTA has been able to loan us bus drivers, including for the trolley that runs to Lake George in the summers,” said Glens Falls Mayor Bill Collins on Wednesday. “We’ve been extremely lucky and blessed to not have to limit or cancel any routes, until this week.”
The employment issue existed in Glens Falls prior to the pandemic – and hasn’t only hit the city’s bus system. Glens Falls has also seen significant firefighter shortages, with at least five positions currently open. Likewise, the Glens Falls Police Department has four openings of its own.
Even beaches have been impacted. The city is short on lifeguards, a struggle lessened this past summer, as Haviland Cove Beach had to be closed for the lowering of water levels in order to facilitate dam work along the Hudson River. Next summer, though, the shortage will return, unless the city can get more people interested.
Collins feels that community members are getting more selective about where they work. In some cases, openings arise when old employees retire, and new blood isn’t interested in stepping up. The GGFT trolley service to Lake George has historically employed semi-retired school bus drivers, who have had to step back for health reasons or help children and grandchildren as the pandemic has changed employment circumstances for many.
One way to draw more employees would be to raise the pay for the jobs that are open – but that means doing so for a lot of people at once. Glens Falls’ bus drivers, DPW, police and firefighters are all parts of unions, which require pay raises to occur for everyone at a time. If everyone’s pay at the GGFT was raised by even a couple dollars, that would multiply across hours and employees into tens of thousands in additional cost that Glens Falls cannot afford right now.
“Offering higher pay just isn’t an option for these jobs. All we can do is continue to post and post and post,” Collins said.
In the meantime, bus routes 4, 11 and 12 aren’t completely out of commission. Route 4, which runs between Glens Falls, Hudson Falls and Fort Edward, runs on the hour instead of the half-hour. Routes 11 and 12, which travel the ends of Glen Street, have lost some of their times, but can still be caught a few times per day. All three are fully operational on weekends, and Route 19 has been rerouted to visit upper Glen Street.
Mayor Collins says that the city hasn’t heard any complaints about the change from residents. They would like to see service return to normal, but do what they have to do in the meantime.
“I think the people who use the bus system are much more aware and less confused than the mayor. They know because they ride it, and they hear about the changes whenever they get on.”