During the current bus driver shortage, Oregon may look to its prison system. At November’s Public Transportation Advisory Committee, from Astoria, Jeff Hazen.
[00:00:11] Jeff Hazen: One of the things I’ve been working on that’s affecting all transit agencies that I know, it’s the shortage of drivers. Our district had to cut service in September by 27 percent just because we don’t have enough drivers. All our drivers were working six and seven days a week, and even with cutting the service so much, drivers are still working six days a week.
[00:00:34] One of my counterparts back in Iowa, Julia Castillo, a few months ago wrote a blog post and CTAA the Community Transportation Association of America posted it and it’s about setting up programs to tap into potential drivers within the state prison systems where we set up a training program within the prison walls to train people about, how to drive transit and everything involved with becoming a transit driver.
[00:01:08] And I got really excited when I read this post because I mean, I’m a visionary guy, but I would’ve never thought about this. Long story short, we set up a meeting with the Department of Corrections. DMV was also there. The conversation went really well. There was a lot of interest from all parties on this because they are keenly aware that there is a shortage of drivers in all sectors.
[00:01:30] The concern of space within the prison walls was brought up and they said, ideally it would be great to have a mobile unit. And I remember that from when I was a kid in high school, when we went through driver’s ed, the simulators were in the trailer. I don’t know if anybody yet that has a simulator trailer set up for specific for transit, but that’s something I’ll be looking at because it does make sense.
[00:01:53] One of the people from DMV brought up that they’d like to see it expanded to all sectors, trucking and school bus drivers.
[00:02:00] So when our next meeting happens here shortly. I’ll propose that we set up a pilot program and it start it out with transit and then, get that going, and then I think that it can expand to the other sectors. I know that there are some other states that have this program within their prison systems and it’s for trucking Florida has it. Idaho. So there’s some models out there.
[00:02:25] Locally, I set up a meeting with our Sheriff and Parole and Probation Department, to see if we could help some of their clients be a little more successful now that they’re back in the community or they’re on probation serving that time .And they were very excited about it.
[00:02:41] We also had somebody from our local workforce investment board that was at the meeting and they’re very interested in it too. They’re going to be supporting our program by paying $3,000 per person for training, and we did all our training in-house, so that’s a huge win for us. The other big win happened last week when we got three referrals from a Parole and Probation Department of clients that they feel would be helped by this and would be successful in this program. And two of those people are getting interviewed tomorrow. We’re excited about that and hopeful that this can help fill a need for a lot of people.
[00:03:17] And you know, not only is it helping transit agencies, helping those individuals on parole and probation, but also, the statewide look, having a program where they get trained while they’re in the prison walls and can walk into a good job when they get released from prison which will then hopefully reduce that recidivism rate.
[00:03:36] Julia from Iowa hosted a nationwide call-in. A lot of transit agencies from across the country were on it. They’re very interested. I was on a town hall with CTAA and the National Workforce Investment Board’s association. So, it’s really taken off.
[00:04:00] Angie Jones (Executive Director, Grant County Transportation District): We all are facing this shortage and some of the ideas about the re-entry program are quite awesome. In my area, I have taken it to the Sheriff’s Department and Parole and Probation and discussed it and they are very on board with the idea.
[00:04:18] For the rural areas, it’s going to be a little bit more challenging. The folks reentering from prison into the rural areas, it’s for the more violent stuff, they aren’t going to qualify, which is really unfortunate because you have to go back to where you were sentenced from. So that’s one setback, but yes, we are going to be talking about that.