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Milford man took downtown job, banking on a bus service he said now strands him regularly

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Posted at 7:28 PM, Dec 08, 2022

CINCINNATI — A bus rider claims Metro "betrayed" and stranded him over and over.

Christopher Myers, 34, lives in Milford. He took a $14 an hour job inside the Great American Tower in downtown Cincinnati because Metro offers an express bus service from his home to work. However, the 29x bus does not always have a driver able to carry him home.

"You don't know if it will show up or not," Myers said. "It feels like we're being neglected."

Metro text alerts warned him of last minute disruptions that force him to buy Uber rides three times this week, he said. Each Uber costs more than $40. For a millennial without a car struggling to pay $200,000 worth of student loans, he said it felt cruel.

Myers said he buys 30-day bus passes.

"It feels like a betrayal because I'm paying $106 per month to ride Metro," he said. "I'm getting a $60 value. I care about Metro. I care about the people who ride Metro with me and I want to see them do better even if that means having a competitor."

Brandy Jones, vice president of external affairs for Metro said worker shortages play no small role.

“We take all customer feedback very seriously, and certainly understand the frustration that customers like Mr. Myers feel when their trip is missed," Jones wrote in a statement. "The difficult reality is that, like so many transit-related industries across the country, Metro is still in the grips of a severe operator shortage, which is having unfortunate impacts on our service reliability.

“We are however taking every step possible to address this problem, including aggressive recruitment and retention tactics, a $2,000 hiring bonus, paid CDL training, frequent career fairs, and the most competitive pay and benefits in Metro’s nearly 50-year history. Just yesterday, more than a dozen new-hire operators graduated from Metro’s robust training program and are ready to begin serving our customers. We also have made adjustments across many routes to improve efficiency and increase trip frequency where we can so that, if a trip must be missed, there are additional trip options available.

“As Mr. Myers’ statements confirm, we also take every step possible to alert our customers to these disruptions, through email and text messaging, so they can make alternate travel arrangements in the event of a missed trip. It is our goal to provide the most reliable and on-time service possible, and we are truly grateful for our customers’ continued loyalty and patience as we navigate through these challenges.”

Metro is hardly the only transit agency adjusting. Miami and Los Angeles postponed bus network upgrades, according to TransitCenter research published online. Of 117 agencies surveyed, 71% either had to cut or delay service increases after the COVID-19 pandemic because of worker shortfalls.

Metro hired 12 new bus operators Wednesday. While the agency is still looking for more, Myers would like better communication. He wrote 20 letters complaining about service disruption without a single response, Myers said.

"It is irritating when you have people you call and they hang up the phone or they're too busy to answer the phone," he said.

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