Sluggish ridership totals, driver shortages force city to reassess Capital Transit

Nolan Lister

With the city of Helena’s Capital Transit bus service remaining shutdown due to a shortage of drivers and illnesses among employees, officials are considering drastically pairing down future operations.

City spokesman Jacob Garcin said Wednesday that the Capital Transit staff is “cautiously optimistic” its two fixed routes within the city will be able to resume by Monday, but service to East Helena will remain closed.

According to City Manager Rachel Harlow-Schalk, Capital Transit, the city’s public transportation system in operation since 1979, is ideally staffed with 10 bus drivers. Garcin later clarified that to be eight full-time drivers and four part-time drivers.

Garcin said as of Wednesday, only five full-time and two part-time drivers are currently working.

Two more part-time drivers are in the process of being hired.

On Nov. 1, city staff elected to indefinitely suspend its service to East Helena.

A week later, staff announced the temporary suspension of all Capital Transit fixed routes.

The public transportation operation’s Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant paratransit service has remained in operation, but it requires those seeking a ride to submit an application accompanied by a doctor’s note confirming the person’s need for such a service and be approved by city staff.

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