Alon Levy writes in the comments in response to an item in yesterday’s links about a Republican legislator in Texas looking to cut bus drivers’ salaries:
Repeating my comment on the Austin Contrarian, and similar comments I’ve made on Second Avenue Sagas: the problem is more staffing than salaries. At New York City Transit, salaries are the same as at Toei – a little more than $100,000 in total compensation per employee. (No data for Tokyo Metro, alas.) The difference is that NYCT has 47,000 employees and Toei 6,400, a factor-of-7 difference, even though NYCT only carries twice as many passengers, and provides only four times as many train revenue-hours and stations. A train driver on Toei spends 700 hours a year driving a revenue train, versus about 450 in New York. And Toei isn’t even the most efficient agency: Tokyo Metro is three times as big as Toei but has only 8,400 employees.
Republican outfits advocating pay cuts likely do not know anything about staffing levels. I’ve never seen the Manhattan Institute, which is arguing for union-busting and pay cuts in New York, say a single thing about staffing levels. On the contrary, Nicole Gelinas gleefully points out that if wages were lower, staffing levels could be maintained or increased – in other words, making New York more like a third-world city and less like a first-world city. It’s not a serious efficiency measure – it’s ideological opposition to unions, justified post hoc on financial grounds.
I would suppose that this would be slightly less relevant to bus service – low levels of productivity there could be the inevitable result of sprawling land use patterns and being forced to run lots of low ridership routes. That could also apply to rail service to some extent, but the comparatively low number of hours that train drivers in the US (or at least NYC, which I hear isn’t at all the most wasteful) actually spend driving trains indicates that overstaffing and lower worker productivity among US transit employees is at least part of the problem.