09/26/2012 04:00 pm ET Updated Nov 26, 2012

The Decline of Good Transit Jobs and Passenger Safety

The MTA's contract demands include the introduction of part-time Bus Operators, which would have a rippling effect throughout working-class communities. Not only would it reduce the ability of Bus Operators to provide for their families, but it would also negatively impact the broader community of riders and residents of New York City. Making full-time Bus Operators part-time will make them bad jobs for our communities, and it will threaten the safety of the riding public.

Under the MTA's proposal, a part-time Bus Operator at today's wage rate, based on a 25-hour work week, would earn just under $27,000 a year (before taxes) without paid sick days. The MTA's proposal also includes an $800 monthly payment for family healthcare coverage. Under these circumstances, part-time Bus Operators simply could not support their families in New York City.

To illustrate this point, let us examine income levels and the cost of housing. According to a September 2012 report released by NYC Comptroller John Liu, 84 percent of low-income New Yorkers (who earn less than $35,000) and 38 percent of middle-income New Yorkers (making between $35,000-75,000) are paying unaffordable rents.

Comptroller Liu's report continued: "[M]iddle income New Yorkers [who make between $35,000 and $75,000] are caught between skyrocketing rents and stagnant incomes -- a situation that has worsened over time." Part-time Bus Operators would fail to reach the bracket of middle-income New Yorkers, and would thus be much less able provide for their families and contribute to their own communities.

With a little research, we can see just how lower incomes will result in a significant decline in part-time Bus Operators' ability to afford rent. As per CitiHabitats' Rental Market Analysis from March 2012, a two-bedroom apartment in Washington Heights -- arguably the one of the more affordable neighborhoods in Manhattan -- has an average rent of $1,771, or about 79 percent of a part-time Bus Operator's pre-tax income. In the Bronx's Co-Op City, part-time Bus Operators would only be able to afford a studio apartment, which cannot provide shelter for a whole family.

Therefore, even if the MTA says that introduction of part-time Bus Operators would increase the number of jobs available to New Yorkers, these low-salary positions will not alleviate the levels of poverty in the city. Recent income data shows that even though employment has grown in New York City, poverty has actually increased. Turning good, family-sustaining full-time Bus Operator jobs into part-time jobs will make them bad jobs for our communities, exacerbating the devastating levels of poverty in our city.

Finally, in order to compensate for a low salary, part-time Bus Operators would be likely to work two or three jobs without paid sick days. This, in turn, would make them more prone to fatigue, illness, and accidents on the job, putting the safety of riders at risk as they travel to work or school.

In contrast, our full-time Bus Operators are committed to a single job, which they proudly carry out every day with dedication and professionalism, because they know that their job is the reason why they can afford rent, put food on the table, receive quality healthcare, send their children to college and retire with dignity.