Knoxville Area Transit mulls service reduction due to labor shortage

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Knoxville Area Transit is proposing additional bus service reductions due to an ongoing labor shortage that they say is worse now than at any time during the pandemic.

On Thursday, KAT announced that due to the ongoing labor shortage they are proposing cutting down on some of their offered services. The Knoxville Transportation Authority will hold a public hearing on Thursday, July 7 where they will review and vote on these proposed changes.

If the changes are approved the changes will begin on Monday, August 29.

KAT was forced to reduce service levels twice in 2020 due to COVID-19. Increasing workforce allowed a return to some previous levels of service, but not all, in March of 2021. A KAT release said workforce levels have continued to fall and are now lower than at any time during the pandemic.

“This is a completely unprecedented situation,” says Isaac Thorne, Director of Transit for the City of Knoxville.  “We currently have 156 operators out of the 200 needed to operate our pre-COVID service levels. Our bus operators are working hard to try to provide this current level of service to the community, but we must step back for a while with our service levels while we continue to redouble our hiring, training, and retention efforts.” 

The proposed changes are:

  • Elimination of Routes 10 – Sequoyah and 19 – Lakeshore/Lonas 
  • Reduction of all Sunday service schedules, with the last downtown departures at 5:15 p.m. 
  • All weekday and Saturday evening service ends earlier, with the exception of core routes 11, 12, 22, 31 and 41 continuing through an 11:15 p.m. line-up. 
  • Reduced hours on Route 13 – Beaumont 
  • Reduced weekday frequency on Route 42 – UT/Ft. Sanders Hospitals 
  • Reduced frequency on Orange and Green Line trolleys 

And two proposed route changes:

  • A new proposal to serve West Town Mall (outbound only) via Gleason Drive 
  • A proposal for a route change on Route 12 – Western to use 5th Avenue to University (rather than Arthur and Boyd) through the Mechanicsville area 

KAT says due to the effect these changes could cause those who use the services for work-related purposes they have partnered with Knox County CAC Transit to fill in the gaps left from the changes. KAT passengers who need transportation in the evenings or on Sundays can call CAC at 865-546-3500 to check availability and they will do their best to accommodate them, according to a release.

For more information on the proposed changes visit KAT’s website or call 865-637-3000.

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