Board allows transit to hire driver
MANISTIQUE – Schoolcraft County Public Transit will have an extra employee to assist in its recent influx of riders. The transit director made a request for a permanent part-time employee during Tuesday’s meeting of the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners.
According to SCPT Director John Stapleton, the newly expanded hours of the transit have caused a bit of strain on the service. Since a newly enacted county policy limits the number of hours a part-time employee can work, Stapleton said he’s been struggling with the flexibility of staff.
“Riders and fares are picking up virtually every week or every weekend that we’ve been expanding our hours,’ he said.
Since more riders with the same drivers equate to longer wait times, Stapleton requested the county allow him to hire another part-time driver to help. He noted that if ridership happens to decline, or other factors cause a negative change, the county could choose not to fill the position opening following a retirement in November.
Commissioner Jerry Zellar asked what benefits were included in permanent part-time positions, suggesting the position would cost more than its face value hourly wage. County Clerk Dan McKinney answered that permanent part-time positions are privy to vacation, sick leave, and prorated retirement.
Commissioner Dan LaFoille asked if the summer months, namely, the reduced traffic from school year riders, would affect ridership.
“We definitely see a decline in summer,” Stapleton said. “There’s a good portion of employees that take those months off, so there’s a good balance for it.”
He noted that in January, transit gave 1,000 more rides than in January 2013 – 5,000 in total.
“We’re on track this year, if ridership stays where it’s at, to be up 50 percent in our ridership,” Stapleton said. “I don’t even think we hit the base of what the expanded hours have done – it picks up every weekend.”
Zellar questioned whether they could use more minivans as opposed to the buses to help offset the cost of an extra employee by saving on gas.
Stapleton explained that a good amount of the riders require a wheelchair lift – only available on busses. He also noted that each vehicle is required by the Michigan Department of Transportation to incur 10,000 miles a year. If vehicles have less than this, Stapleton said the transit will risk losing them.
Zellar also pointed out that most of the transit runs were in town, but Stapleton pointed out transit services the outlying areas as well – more so during the weekdays.
“We haven’t had requests in the evening out there, but they’re going to come, no doubt about it,” he said. “Is it going to be first come, first served? Absolutely … I would encourage anyone who lives out of town to call in advance and set it up.”
The commissioners unanimously approved the hiring of a parttime transit employee.