ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – ABQ Ride is trying to get its bus system up and running smoothly. A big part of that is staffing up.

“We are dedicated to making changes to fill vacancies [and] start to bring back service,” said Leslie Keener, transit director for the City of Albuquerque.

The department has an overall 32% vacancy rate and has to fill 183 of its 567 positions. When it comes to bus drivers within the department, there is a 35% vacancy rate and they need to hire 118 drivers.

“Ultimately, the vacancies are problematic. We’re struggling to keep up with the current service schedules,” said Keener.

“Each week, we have about 7,100 hours of work, due to being short-staffed, we’ve been missing about 500 hours of service per week,” said Mike Davis, deputy director of the transit department.

The city was forced to suspend six commuter routes last month and plans to suspend more routes soon. The public can give comment on that second round of suspensions next week. The city blames the worker shortage of bus drivers on the aging workforce in the industry.

“We have already retired 25 drivers and 29 support staff since 2019,” said Keener. They also say the competitive hiring market makes staffing up more difficult. The city is offering a 14% pay increase to new drivers. As for safety, the city said there are 0.6 incidents for every 1,000 riders.

The department said it is working with metro security, APD, and ACS and is working to improve lighting and signage at bus stops. As for ridership, the city says it is slowly increasing but is still at about 80% of what it was before the pandemic.

Transit says daily routes also may be affected because of their driver shortage. They have a new feature on their transit app to show commuters which routes are canceled for the day.