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The MTA has been canceling more buses in recent months, a top-ranking union official says — accusing the agency of nixing the trips to avoid hiring more workers or paying more overtime.
TWU Local 100 Vice President J.P. Patafio, who represents Brooklyn bus operators, provided The Post with dozens of examples of Brooklyn driver shifts he said had gone empty and not been refilled.
“It’s a behind-the-scenes cut in service. They’re just not filling up the work,” Patafio told The Post.
“Instead of looking forward to bringing the city back to life, they’re being really conservative.”
On Friday April 9, for example, Patafio said 137 scheduled buses never ran between the Flatbush, Jackie Gleason, East New York and Fresh Pond depots.
Publicly available stats show the transit authority is in fact falling behind on “service delivered” during the pandemic, as measured by the number of scheduled buses and trains.
In February, weekday subway service delivery stood at 90.5 percent — a 6 percent drop compared to February of 2020. Bus service delivered has dropped by seven points, from 97.6 percent to 90.8 percent.
The time riders spend waiting at bus stops has jumped 49 seconds over the same period, according to the most recently available stats.
“People complain because they’ve been waiting for a while. It’s more stress on the driver,” B38 operator Jose Vega said about the impromptu service reductions, which he said happen “quite often,” and increasingly during COVID-19.
“They never cover the run. It just stays open. If there’s a bus or two missing, it’ll just stay that way. It’ll never get covered,” Vega said.
The hit from additional bus stop time has been canceled out to an extent by drops in ridership and fewer cars on the road to slow buses down, an MTA source said — yielding only a marginal increase in total journey time in February versus a year earlier.
Most of the canceled runs are occurring at night, the source said.
Transit leaders committed to cut overtime spending two years ago after The Post’s reporting showed extra pay had become a growing burden on the cash-strapped agency’s budget.
Last month, officials touted spending 18 percent less on overtime in 2020 compared to two years earlier, but the bill still stands at over $1.1 billion.
Reached for comment, an MTA spokesman said bus operator vacancy is just 3 percent.
Tim Minton insisted any canceled runs had not caused a “material decrease” in wait assessment, the MTA’s measure of the percentage of buses that arrive close to schedule.
“Throughout this pandemic we have run as much service as possible with the resources we have,” Minton said in a statement.
“When Bus Operators are not available as scheduled, managers ensure adequate service coverage based upon scarce resources and responsible use of taxpayer funds and overtime,” he said. “This has always been the case, both before and during the pandemic. We continue to run full service for approximately 50 percent of pre-pandemic ridership.”
Additional reporting by Kevin Sheehan
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