Status Quo Fears Change

Video of the June 2, 2022 VTA Board Of Directors’ meeting.

Last Thursday’s Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) Board Of Directors‘ meeting had some interesting actions approved. The last of the actions approved should not come as a surprise to those who have followed us since 2001.

First Things First…

First, the VTA Board approved a slight pay increase for new bus drivers. This is, according to VTA, in an effort to attract new recruits. This will take effect in February 2023; the date VTA mentions in their blog, as of press time, is not correct.

…all-new Bus Operators will start at step 1 with a wage rate of 65% of the top Bus Operator wage rate, eliminating the trainee rate. Furthermore, the step progression will be reduced from a nine (9) step, 48-month progression period to a seven (7) step, 36-month pay progression period.

According to VTA, as of this writing, their driver trainee salary is $21.80/hour. It includes a 5% pay increase every 6 months for the next 4 years after hire, and freezes at the top stop. About 75% of VTA’s 884 current bus and light rail operators are at this top step.

John Courtney, President of ATU Local 265 representing VTA bus and light rail operators, had this to say:

“We need to start thinking about getting people back on the busses and trains, and the way to do that is to ensure you have consistent and reliable service, and when you are short on bus operators, you obviously are facing a dilemma,” said John Courtney, ATU Local 265 President & Business Agent.

[Courtney] added, “Thank you to the VTA’s administration. This is a very good first step to provide our county with good reliable service with good quality operators”.

Second, the VTA Board approved plans from Seamless Bay Area that will help them better integrate service and fares among the 27 Bay Area transit agencies.

Let’s applaud the VTA Board for taking both of these actions.

Reform Rejected

In the last of the major actions the VTA Board undertook, they voted to oppose a bill written by State Assembly Member Marc Berman, AB 2181, that would remake its governance structure. View the video above, to see which Board members made what comments opposing AB 2181.

At 2:42:14 of the video above, several people spoke. I spoke in my comments, stating that opposition to AB 2181 amounted to fear of being held accountable. When I asked John Ristow, VTA’s Chief External Affairs Officer, to cite text from the bill to address rumors on how some cities like Morgan Hill get shut out, he went silent.

This issue was covered in a story in San Jose Spotlight. Surprisingly, the story did not include people or groups outside Assembly Member Berman, who support AB 2181. Here’s a small write-up from earlier this year supporting why our group supports – and will continue to support – AB 2181 as it’s amended.

Conclusion

While some good is coming about, let’s all continue to fight to make VTA more accountable to YOU.

More to come.

Eugene Bradley
Founder & CEO, Silicon Valley Transit Users