News Story

Saginaw Buses: Fewer Riders, More Overtime

In Saginaw, the bus authority had fewer passengers in 2010 than a year previous, but it still translated into buses on the road longer and a 20 percent jump in overtime. The Saginaw Transit Authority Regional Services (STARS) had its ridership drop from 1,016,387 in 2009 to 982,424 in 2010 but saw its overtime costs climb from $164,377 in 2009 to $200,320 in 2010.

The main line transportation employees, including unionized bus drivers, accounted for 80 percent of the overtime in 2010, according to payroll documents received in a Freedom of Information Act request. Four Saginaw transit employees were paid more than $10,000 in overtime in 2010. One employee was paid $15,142 in overtime.

“They are doing more overtime and they have less ridership. What is wrong with that picture?” asked Dave Agema, a Republican state representative from Grandville who has been a frequent critic of transit inefficiency. “Less people are riding and they are spending more. It’s crazy.”

Overall payroll costs also went up. In 2010, STARS had a $3.1 million in payroll, an increase from $2.9 million in 2009.

Sylvester Payne, the general manager of the Saginaw Transit Authority Regional Services, didn’t return a message or an e-mail seeking comment. According to the Saginaw transit annual audit, Saginaw’s buses were on the road for 6 percent longer in 2010. Saginaw buses were on the road for 54,201 hours in 2009 and 57,497 hours in 2010.

Agema’s criticism of transit systems is that taxpayers end up subsidizing much of the cost. Fares accounted for 9 percent of Saginaw’s total revenue in 2010, according to its 2010 audit. Agema has introduced legislation in the past that would require transit agencies to get at least 20 percent of their total operating revenue from fares.


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