By Velena Jones

DAVIS (CBS13) – A dire shortage of bus drivers is bad news for Yolo County commuters traveling to Sacramento. Buses that normally travel from Yolo to Sacramento counties are now parked.

“The shortage is just that dire and literally we cannot operate everything we have planned,” said Yolo County Transit District Executive Director Autumn Bernstein.

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The Yolo County Transportation District (YCTD) Board of Directors voted Monday to temporarily cut four bus lines from Woodland and Davis to downtown Sacramento because of a lack of drivers and low ridership. The company said it’s part of lingering impacts from the pandemic.

“These tend to me more white-collar workers; many of them have other options for getting to work; these are not are most transit-dependent communities,” explained Bernstein. “What we wanted to do as much as possible is preserve the ridership on those lifeline services that people really rely on to get to medical services, to get to the grocery store,” she said.

The temporary cuts are on bus routes that average five people on each ride on express and Commuter Routes 43, 43R, 45 and 230, according to Bernstein.

“I don’t think we have an accurate estimate of the volume of people who might be opposed to this proposal,” explained one commuter during public comment.

One commuter during Monday’s meeting said the cuts will add an hour to his trip.

“Removing the route…would be unfair for many. Previous comments state that driving for them is an alternative, but I don’t own a car and neither do many that ride the bus,” explained the commuter.

The cuts come just two days before the start of school at UC Davis, where drivers are needed for routes at the school.

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The board also approved a temporary fixed route in Davis with YoloBus operating the A Line at roughly 30 minute frequency, and the L Line at roughly 60-minute frequency, effective September 22, 2021.

This comes at a time that Yolobus was looking to expand its services to the university.

“We are spreading the pain; we are not just slashing the commuter routes, we are also cutting the service to the university in half,” Bernstein said.

Students are also feeling the impact. Yolobus partners with the university’s bus service. Changes in services will also extend wait times for students to get to and from school.

“It definitely makes it a lot hard from getting to school, to home or will force people to have to wait longer or maybe not make the schedule at all because classes are going to start soon,” said student Ashwin Ramakrishna.

Bernstein does not know how long the changes will last but hopes the red light in services doesn’t last for long.

“I think we need to look seriously at how much we are paying our drivers and what kind of benefits they are providing to make sure we are keeping them on board,” explained Bernstein.

Bernstein added that drivers did receive a pay increase as well as bonuses on September 1 and she hopes that will help keep drivers on their staff. In total, 13 drivers have recently left, Bernstein says.

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Velena Jones