Detroit Pays Bus Drivers Not To Work
Detroit's woes are famous. As the poster child for the urban shrinkage that has ravaged America's once vibrant Rust Belt, Motown has seen a population decline of roughly 40 percent since the end of World War II. The head-count in the greater Detroit area now stands at roughly 800,000, according to Time's November 2010, story, "How to Shrink a City."
And according to another recent tally, Detroit's operating deficit comes in at $710 million through fiscal year 2011. That number also includes this year's $450 million shortfall, according to Business Insider.
All of which combines to make this latest development particularly painful. According to a report by the Detroit Free Press, roughly 100 Detroit bus drivers are being paid to stand idle as their vehicles remain in the shop for maintenance. They are paid on average of $12 an hour, and have an annual salary of roughly $36,000.
That caravan represents roughly half the city's total fleet, which as a whole has seen its drivers, both working and not, paid more than $2 million in the last three and a half months. It was in July when the buses were taken off the road.
"It's beyond words," Linda Cooper, a secretary who works downtown, told the Free Press as she waited for a bus Friday. "I'm sickened, absolutely sickened."
The unavailability of so many buses has caused Detroit Mayor Dave Bing to declare a transportation crisis. He says that he is considering hiring more mechanics to help speed the repairs, which are causing commuters to wait for up to three hours for a bus. But according to the AP, Bing defended the current working arrangement for the drivers, which requires payments whether or not they actually are behind the wheel.
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Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.
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