CapMetro Mechanic Shortage Impacts UT Riverside Commuters
By Ivy Fowler
Reporting Texas TV
AUSTIN, Texas – Off-campus students living in East Riverside are dealing with multiple cancellations of CapMetro shuttles in recent weeks due to a shortage of bus mechanics.
On Feb. 9, CapMetro canceled all the shuttles on the 670 and 672 routes while the 671 ran just twice, at 12:53 p.m. and 1:41 p.m.
CapMetro sent alerts to students the morning of the cancellations informing them of the cancellations and to suggest bus 20 as an alternative.
UT sophomore Hayden Diregorio said the last time he remembers this many cancellations was during the February 2021 winter storm.
“The schedules are not great so sometimes they’ll have some scheduled that just never show up or show up 15 minutes late or early…you kind of just have to deal with it. You either have to get here really really early and wait or hope a bus will come,” Digregorio said.
Many students decide to live in Riverside because it is a more affordable option than dorms or apartments closer to campus. But, with professors able to instate mandatory attendance policies, unreliable transportation costs them more than just money.
UT senior Tre Johnson said he is unmotivated to go to class when buses are canceled, and does not have professors or TAs who are accommodating to tardiness or absences.
“Living out here at Estates the rent is cheap, so that’s why I choose to stay here, but the commute is an obstacle I have to overcome each and every day. Transportation is on us, so you either make it to class or you don’t,” Johnson said.
Johnson said while the cancellations are inconvenient, a lack of support and communication can be the most frustrating part.
CapMetro Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President Andrew Skabowski said the cancellations are due to bus maintenance issues and a shortage of mechanics.
“I’m not gonna sugar coat it, that day, on the eighth and the ninth [of February], we had some trouble on [the] vehicle availability side, but we’re in better standing today than we were back then,” Skabowski said.
Skabowski also said CapMetro increased the starting wage for bus mechanics to $30 per hour with a signing bonus of $5,000 in an effort to attract more people to the open positions. Once hired, it still takes time to get them properly trained in the specifics of working on a bus.
In addition, CapMetro is starting a partnership program with trade schools and high schools to provide those students with employment opportunities after they graduate.
For the short term, CapMetro will keep extra bus parts on hand to try to prevent a backlog. When a bus breaks down, Skabowski said choices are made to “spread the pain,” and make sure available buses are allocated to critical routes so cancellations have minimal impact on the community.
Skabowski said these fixes won’t be immediate, but CapMetro will continue to work diligently to minimize the number of cancellations. In the meantime, UT Parking and Transportation urges students to utilize their resources.
Despite the efforts of CapMetro and UT Parking and Transportation, commuting students are still left feeling stranded.
UT sophomore Kaiden Zapanta said he loses an hour to his commute every day even when the buses are on time.
“I had a project to work on on campus but [the bus] got canceled, so I had to take the actual public transportation which is bus 20,” Zapanta said. “It was a lot more inconvenient than I wanted it to be.”
UT Parking and Transportation offers a $50 discount on parking passes and free garage parking to students who register as carpoolers, according to its website. Participants can swap out cars and drivers using the same parking pass, however, only one car may use the permit on campus at a time, and cars must be registered through My Parking Profile.
Each participant receives a “Green on the Go” pass with access to all campus garages except the Conference Center Garage.
The program also offers a “guaranteed ride home” in case a member’s plan changes. Each participant is eligible for up to two Lyft ride homes per semester for up to $49.50 each. Additional charges and driver gratuity are not included.
Students also receive access to discounted rates on the car sharing app ZipCar. Cars must be returned to their original parking spot by the end of the reservation and fees apply for not filling up the gas tank or leaving behind a mess.