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Study Shows High Pay for Transportation Jobs in Chicago

Posted on March 8, 2010

According to an analysis conducted by the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Transit Authority workers get some of the highest wages in the U.S. for transportation jobs in Chicago (click here).

The study found that at $28.64 an hour, the top wage rate for Chicago Transit Authority bus drivers ranks third-highest among U.S. transit agencies.

CTA bus drivers trail only their counterparts at two transit agencies operating on opposite coasts.

The top hourly salary for bus drivers at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Boston leads the industry, at $30.18; while the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority in San Jose, Calif., pays bus operators with the most seniority $28.86 an hour, according to John A. Dash & Associates, a transit research firm in Havertown, Pa.

The drivers say they are well-deserving of this kind of pay, considering the circumstances they go through each day. They are defending their pay vigorously pay at a time when the transit agency’s management is demanding they give up raises and take furlough days to close a budget deficit and end cuts that slashed bus service by 18 percent in February.

According to the Tribune, CTA bus driver Pat Mojarro said transit employees “are worth at least $150 an hour” because of the responsibilities and potential dangers of the job.

“We are verbally and physically attacked every day. We are expected to be police, homeland security, lost and found, maintenance, doctor and psychiatrist for the public,” Mojarro said. “Add that up and see how much we are underpaid.”

But CTA refuses to budge on certain issues. CTA officials said they cannot restore service that was cut on Feb. 7 or hire back any of the 1,059 laid-off transit workers, unless the union agrees to give up this year’s 3.5 percent salary increase and accept 10 unpaid furlough days, as well as possibly accept other concessions to erase a projected $95.6 million budget deficit. More than 900 of the laid-off workers are bus drivers, bus mechanics and bus cleaners.

But the rankings catapult CTA bus drivers to elite status — the highest-paid in the nation — when the cost of living in the Chicago area is compared with the Boston and San Jose markets.

That was the case in 2008 as well — before the last two CTA pay raises — when an internal study by the Amalgamated Transit Union, the labor union that represents CTA bus drivers, ranked CTA drivers No. 3 overall in top hourly pay and No. 1 when the Consumer Price Index was taken into account.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s New York City Transit ranks No. 6, at $27.99 an hour. Bus drivers for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority in the District of Columbia are at No. 10, earning a top rate of $26.81 an hour.

Others include the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, which ranks No. 12 and pays drivers a top rate of $26.19 an hour; and the west division in the Chicago region of Pace suburban bus, placing No. 17 with a top hourly rate of $24.93.

The Detroit Department of Transportation was far down the list, paying out a top rate of $17.31 to bus drivers. Other transit agencies that pay bus drivers a top scale of less than $20 an hour include Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Denver’s Regional Transportation District, Orlando’s Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.

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