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August 2022 Board Meeting Round-Up: L.A. Metro Raises Bus Driver Starting Salaries

Today the Metro board gave its starting bus operators a raise, approving the outlines of a collective bargaining agreement [staff report] that ups the starting driver salary to $23 an hour.

At the start of 2022, Metro bus drivers made $17.75 an hour. In late January, Metro announced a six-month pilot temporarily raising starting wages to $19.12 per hour. The agency subsequently raised its starting hourly wage to $20.49.

The new agreement with the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) union is expected to go into effect retroactively to July 1 and will last until June 30, 2027. SMART members approved the tentative agreement in late July.

As Metro boardmember Mike Bonin remarked at today's board meeting, this agreement is crucial to Metro restoring and improving bus service. Metro cut service at the outset of the pandemic, then struggled to meet board-mandated and fully-funded service restorations, mainly due to a somewhat self-inflicted bus operator shortage. Metro has been scrambling to recruit and train operators, but the agency's relatively low salary hampered these efforts.

Metro Operator staffing:
Operator shortage: Metro is 400+ bus operators short of what is needed to run budgeted service levels. Chart via Metro August 2022 staff report
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The new agreement adds $46.5 million to the agency's $8 billion fiscal year 2022-23 budget.

The agreement includes several additional features regarding wage progression, retention bonuses (basically a one-time COVID frontline worker bonus up to $2,500), minimizing mandatory overtime (OCB - ordered call backs), and allowing Metro to hire rail operators from outside the bus operator pool. See details in Metro staff report.

Other August Metro board actions:

    • Rail to River walk/bike path - The board approved a Segment B alignment [staff report] east of the A Line that puts the bikeway on Randolph Street, instead of on the rail right-of-way (where Rail to River connects with, and would have shared right-of-way with, the future West Santa Ana Branch rail project). More SBLA coverage of this coming soon.
    • SR-14 widening - The board approved a motion calling for "correct[ing] sub-standard configurations" (aka widening) on the 14 Freeway in parts of North L.A. County.
    • East San Fernando Valley Light Rail - The board approved two contracts for planned Van Nuys light rail. Neither are for actual rail construction, but for ancillary project components: $66 million for construction support services and $1 million for a solar energy public-private partnership at the future railyard.
    • G (Orange) Line Upgrades - The board approved a G Line item [staff report] including a $44 million progressive design-build contract, and an overall project costs of $150 million. Planned upgrades include rail-type crossing gates and a grade separation bridge. The board also approved eminent domain for four G Line sites [staff report]; these include small chunks of corner property (plus construction easements) at four parking lots.
    • 105 Freeway ExpressLanes - The board approved two 105 Freeway Express Lane items: a $95 million contract for the 105's roadside toll collection system, and an item with an $8 million dollar pre-construction services contract, which also included establishing the overall project cost of $119 million.

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