Comparitive analysis of Transit worker salaries.
April 12, 2005 9:14 PM   Subscribe

Based on the recent contract negotiations for the Toronto Transit Commission (ATU 113) and the nearly averted strike, I was curious as to the average wage paid to other transit employees in countries that offer similar forms of public transit.

First off, I grudgingly support the union initiative since I believe public transit is extremely important within any city environment.

However, the average TTC bus driver makes approximately $24.32 an hour. I realize that the importance of a public transit service within a major metropolitan area is paramount (and I use it every single day) however, some of the recent contract stipulations have peaked my curiosity around the supposed under-funding vs. the strangle-hold that the transit union has over the city.

So, I was curious if people knew what the average salary was for union or non-union transit workers in their respective cities and if public transit is an asset in your mode of transportation. If so, how do you feel about fare increases or service reduction in order to meet the union riders during contract negotiations?
posted by purephase to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total)
Make sure you calculate cost-of-living into the equation; a Haitian bus driver probably makes only a couple bucks a day, but is well-off compared to many of the starving masses.

$25/hr doesn't seem very high IMO.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:36 AM on April 13, 2005

The average Canadian makes a bit more than $32,000 a year.

Assuming a 35 hour a week job with 2 weeks vacation, that's $18.29 per hour, meaning that TTC workers are, on average, *extremely* highly paid, presently making 32% more than most any Canadian you will meet on the street.

I do not know anything about the difficulty level of the job, and while my knee-jerk assumption says "It's just driving a vehicle, how hard can it be?" it may be that it indeed is such a dangerous, difficult, dirty, demeaning job that it requires that it be one of the highest paying jobs in Canada to attract workers to it. I would like to see statistics on how many TTC workers die, are maimed, or are victims of crime on the job each year to confirm or deny my suspicions.

I also support public transit, however, I cannot fathom what makes it right to have someone being paid three times minimum wage truck people around who, in general, are often down on their luck in jobs and are likely minimum wage earners themselves. It just feels wrong. But, well, I don't travel on the bus, because lucky me, I'm making enough money to afford a car right now, so how can I complain?
posted by shepd at 10:20 AM on April 13, 2005

According to my brother, in Dublin LUAS (tram) drivers make a basic starting salary of EUR 29,000 per year. If I'm working it out correctly at current exchange rates, that'd be 46,000 CAD.

This is apparently higher than Dublin's bus driver salaries and lower than our DART (rapid transit suburban train) drivers, but I can't find exactly what those guys make.
posted by dublinemma at 10:38 AM on April 13, 2005

five fresh fish,

Cost of living is definitely an important consideration, and being that I live in Toronto myself, I am very aware of how expensive it is to live in this city.

shepd voices some of my concerns that I did not want to mention in the original question. While I do not doubt the inevitable crap that accompanies a public transit job and the necessity of creating an environment that attracts workers (higher salaries), something just seems off about this whole situation.

For instance, by perusing through the Toronto/York Wagebook 2003 the average salaries for other transportation type jobs are typically lower or equal.

Truck Drivers: 18.48
Delivery and Courier Service Drivers: 13.28
Heavy Equipment Operators (Except Crane): 25.01

Most heavy equipment operators are probably unionized, but based on my experience it is a very demanding job that usually requires a lot of training and/or education.

Even comparing the wage to other industries that extremely important services and that require years of education, it just does not make a lot of sense.

Registered Nurses: 27.80
Licensed Practical Nurses: 19.62

Again, I'm not debating their importance to the city. I just happen to think that the union itself may be strangling the city based on it's power. That is why I was interested in information from other cities with similar situations and transportation needs.

Thanks for the information dublinemma.
posted by purephase at 12:30 PM on April 13, 2005

I believe Canadian Postal workers make even more. I would consider driving a bus and putting up with angry/drunk people to be considerably more difficult than dropping mail in a slot.

The TTC drivers I've known have mostly hated their jobs. You wouldn't believe how beligerent people can be. I know of two drivers who have been stabbed (one for denying someone entrance because of an invalid transfer and another because the person walked past and didn't pay and the driver called them on it). I've heard of others who've been punched and kicked for doing their jobs. If you wonder why driver's ignore people who are ranting on the buses at people or playing music too loud, this is why. It's not worth it for them to risk taking the person to task.

Also, driving a subway must be hellish what with people jumping in front of you and spending 8 hours a day mostly underground.

The thing that bugs me most about the TTC is the ads and those new tv things. I once read that if for a single day, once a year, the TTC charged everyone 10 cents more per ride, the sytstem could go ad-free or have art up instead. It's 20 cents a year (return fare) that I would gladly pay to not look at the stupid ads.
posted by dobbs at 2:15 PM on April 13, 2005

Seems to me that bus drivers have fairly demanding job requirements: they have to pilot a huge machine through city traffic; they have to meet schedule to within the minute despite the traffic; and they have to do it while ensuring the safety of upwards of forty (eight?) people at a time, plus they get to deal with all the nincompoops and crazies that are out there.

The "average Canadian wage" is a little deceptive, in that it includes everyone including entirely unskilled teenaged burger-flippers.

Look here for some better ways of analysing the data. In summary, average wages for adults in permanent union positions looks to be in the $20-22/hr range, and I doubt many of them require responsibility for dozens of people at the same time as interacting with the public.

I note that mangement occupations average over $30/hr, while the means-of-production workers average $15-$20/hr. WTF?
posted by five fresh fish at 4:49 PM on April 13, 2005

Transit workers also work horrible hours - split shifts, early starts, late into the night, etc.

In Regina & Saskatoon, the highest paid operators make 18.70/hour, (supervisors make more). I can't find a simple way to see what the 'average' pay for these cities are though, as their websites provide no indication as to how many employees fall into each pay scale.

Things to keep in mind when comparing:

- The cost of living in these cities is significantly lower than in TO
- I was reading directly from the contracts of these two unions (both available online). It's clear that there are other forms of compensation like extra pay when working during certain hours, or when their split shifts are spread out a certain amount. These amounts are not included in the number I quoted, and it's unknown if they are included in the numbers in the Globe article.
- The Saskatchwan cities are much smaller (aprox 200,000 people in each) with less traffic, and (hopefully) less danger vs TO
- These contracts expired at the end of 2003
posted by raedyn at 10:45 AM on April 18, 2005

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