Competitive pay helps with recruitment at Maryland Transit Administration, Charlotte Area Transit System

June 8, 2023
Pay increases for operators within Maryland Transit Administration’s system and CATS’ paratransit services are supporting wider recruitment efforts at the agencies.

This week, Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) and Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) outlined a series of competitive pay scale changes that are designed to attract more operators to job openings amid a tight labor market.

At MTA, an agreement with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1300 will decrease the amount of time for bus and rail operators to achieve higher pay rates. The agreement, which took effect May 21, increases hourly bus operator wages from $22.63 to $24.84 and rail operator wages from $24.62 to $26.84. Current bus and rail employees also will receive increases in accordance with their years of service in addition to cost-of-living adjustment adjustments scheduled for July 1.

The new structure means operators will earn top rate after only three years with the agency.

MTA says its recruitment efforts have included a significant increase in outreach through job fairs, advertising and social media. The agency held the first of a series of on-site bus operator hiring events on May 13 designed to streamline the hiring process and decrease barriers to employment. The first event saw MTA issue 86 conditional offer letters to bus operator candidates.

“Having a competitive pay structure is critical to growing our operator workforce,” said Maryland Transit Administrator Holly Arnold. “We are committed to improving the transit experience and more operators will help us to provide the level of service our riders deserve.”

In Charlotte, N.C., CATS paratransit operators will be paid an hourly wage that is 31 cents higher than operators in Brooklyn, N.Y., an area with a cost of living between 22 percent and 41 percent higher than Charlotte.

CATS base rate for paratransit operators will be $23.31 per hour, which is an increase of $3.31 per hour and among the highest rates in the U.S.

‘’With this latest achievement, we believe CATS is a leader in the industry when it comes to equitable compensation for professional operators in the paratransit field. By raising awareness of the specialized role that paratransit operators play, other transportation services across the country may begin to reassess wage standards for non-CDL professional operators,” said CATS General Manager of Bus Operations Division Jennifer Fehribach.

In addition to higher hourly wages, paratransit operators at CATS are eligible for shift differential. Employees regularly assigned to second or third shifts are eligible to receive an additional 2.5 percent premium added to their weekly base pay.

Paratransit operators are also eligible for a competitive benefits package as employees of the city of Charlotte. This package includes being part of the state retirement system and 401k program.

A CDL is not required for paratransit operators, and new hires are immediately placed on payroll following pre-employment testing, allowing for paid training at the new starting pay wage and immediate access to medical benefits.

“Competitive and fair benefits, as well as recognizing our employees hard work, is always a goal for CATS. Our employees are the backbone of our organization. This latest increase in wages reflects our unwavering support of the important work our paratransit drivers do every day,” said Brent Cagle, interim CEO of CATS.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Editor in Chief

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the magazine’s editorial direction and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.

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