Manatee County Government Administrative Center Commission Chambers, First Floor 9:00 a.m. - May 23, 2017
May 23, 2017 - Regular Meeting
Agenda Item #47

Transit Division "Extra Board" Staffing


Contact and/or Presenter Information

William Steele, Transit Division Manager, William.Steele@mymanatee.org, (941) 747-8621 x7440

Chad Butzow, Public Works Deputy Director, Chad.Butzow@mymanatee.org (941) 708-7432

Action Requested
Approve the addition of 16 full-time operator positions to serve as the "Extra Board" for the Transit Division and 1 full-time transit attendant.

Enabling/Regulating Authority

Florida Statutes Chapter 341

Rule 14-90, Florida Administrative Code

Manatee County Ten-Year Transit Development Plan, Manatee Connect

Background Discussion

Over the last several years, the operational staffing levels for the Transit Division are consistently insufficient to cover all scheduled daily work assignments. To more closely monitor and track this situation, Transit Division staff conduct regular reviews of operator vacancies, absences, and normal days off in relation to scheduled work assignments. The review of transit bus operator absences, include vacation and sick leave, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Workers Compensation. These absences affect the ability to cover all work assignments and create shifts that need to be filled, since there is no "extra" staffing designated to cover open work.

As a result, staff fill these extra shifts in addition to their regular shifts and also work on their normal days off. Over time, this constant need for additional work results in a "stressed workforce." Chronic under-staffing of transit bus operators creates a cascade effect that impacts supervisors, superintendents and service attendants, all of whom help cover regular route assignments, in order to ensure service delivery for passengers.

At this point, the Transit Division is at a critical point where simply put, operational staff can no longer sustain fixed-route and Handy Bus service levels by working overtime and double shifts. The operations staff is burned out; and resignations and retirement are on the rise. To provide some relief, a temporary fixed route service reduction on Route 3 is currently in place as a short-term measure to reduce stress and burn-out; and allow operational staff to take much needed time off. This short-term fix will continue until staffing levels reach the minimum threshold in which service levels are balanced with staffing.

The long-term solution to relieve stress on the workforce and maintain service levels is to implement an "Extra Board" of bus operators. Public transportation service providers throughout the country typically operate with "Extra Board" staffing; and this added operator staffing, support the service delivery schedule by covering open work assignments due to leave occurrences and vacancies.

Staffing Situation/Issues

  • Currently, the Manatee County Transit Division has 62 Fixed Route/Trolley Operators and 27 Handy Bus/Paratransit Operators for a total of 89 full-time transit operators. At one point recently, the division had 10 full-time operator positions not available for service delivery due to vacancies and new operators in training, plus 4 that could not work due to Family Medical or Worker's Compensation leave, leaving only 75 operators available to work. However, there are 66 daily work assignments that must be covered for Fixed Route and Handy Bus service delivery. Typically there are 10 regular leave occurrences, and 15 scheduled normal days off, leaving only 50 scheduled operators to cover 66 work assignments.
  • Using an analytical approach, for one year beginning March 1, 2016 through February 28, 2017, the total absence hours for Transit Division Operator staff totaled 39,802. Dividing the number of operator absence hours by the standard number of annual paid hours of 2,080 results in an equivalent of 19 full-time employees.
  • The operator starting wage in Manatee County is higher than many peer transit agencies; however, there is no salary progression for operators as they acquire tenure, as is available in other transit agencies in the Tampa Bay region. This puts the county at a distinct, competitive disadvantage when trying to fill vacant operator positions and retain highly skilled operators.   
  • The Evergreen Solutions, LLC, a consultant hired by the county to study staffing and compensation, identified the transit operator position as the county's highest employee turnover for the prior 3 year period, in an August 2015 report. In fact, 28 operators left the county in that period of time.

Impacts for Service Delivery

  • At present, supervisors are working to assign transit operators to open work assignments daily; and on average, 2 operators work double shifts every day (i.e., Monday-Saturday); and current operators and supervisors are working extra shifts to maintain service delivery. This is, simply put, no longer sustainable as it creates ongoing issues with staff burnout, illness, and jeopardizes operational safety.   
  • Safety regulations also limit the number of hours per day and week an operator can drive, and safety is a critical concern and operational priority.
  • A potential illness affecting only 2 or 3 regularly scheduled operators, could result in missed runs and/or further reductions in the fixed-route and Handy Bus service. Any such scenario impacts the community, and disadvantages those that support the local economy and rely upon Transit/Trolley and Paratransit service delivery for their travel needs.

Recommendation, Operating Costs and Implementation Timeframe

  • Recommendation: Staff recommends that the Board authorize the addition of 16 full-time transit bus operator positions to serve as the "Extra Board" for the Transit Division, as well as one additional transit attendant. The "Extra Board" transit operators will cover all open work assignments to ensure service delivery. Most importantly, the "Extra Board" will relieve the continual stress on the Transit Division workforce. The additional service attendant will help to create balance work assignments and work shifts. This benefits the quality of Fleet cleanliness and operations, facility maintenance, and installation and maintenance for the growing complement of bus stop amenities.
  • Operating Costs: The short-term fiscal impacts for the fourth quarter of FY 2017, are estimated to be $180,316 for the service attendant and 16 "Extra Board" operators. This staff addition is estimated to add $769,348 to the Transit Division operating budget for FY 2018.   Funds will be budgeted in a Reserve in the FY 2018 budget and an independent study will be done to evaluate scheduling, staffing and compensation for transit operators prior to October 1 of this year.
  • Implementation Timeframe: Select, onboard, and train the new Service Attendant and sixteen (16) Extra Board Operators for service delivery in August 2017. It remains to be seen how fast 16 new positions can be filled, trained and placed into service. The goal is by fall of 2017.


County Attorney Review
Not Reviewed (No apparent legal issues)

Explanation of Other

Reviewing Attorney

Instructions to Board Records
Please forward a copy of the Board action/approval to Ryan Suarez, Transit Planning Division Manager, Ryan.Suarez@mymanatee.org, (941) 747-8621 x 7622.

Cost and Funds Source Account Number and Name
Short term operating costs for FY 2017 are estimated to be $180,316 and should come from the BCC reserve for contingency 001-0990000-5990000.

Amount and Frequency of Recurring Costs
Long term annual operating costs are estimated to be $769,348. These shall be added the transit operating budget and come from gas taxes 101-0980000-591435.