Transit ridership down 50% during pandemic

Manager cites driver shortage for decline

By Kyle Shaner -

SIDNEY – Shelby Public Transit ridership is down approximately 50% during the COVID-19 pandemic, largely because the organization doesn’t have enough drivers to meet the demand for rides.

Transit Manager Ron Schalow said he’s seeking more drivers, but it’s been a challenge because of the pandemic – the transit’s drivers tend to be older, a demographic at greater risk from the virus. Also complicating matters are economic issues – almost all of the transit’s driving jobs are part-time positions and less appealing to many job seekers than potential full-time jobs.

“I’d put some on as quickly as I could get them,” Schalow said of adding drivers.

Schalow would like to have approximately 20 drivers but has been operating with 12 to 15 recently. He almost had a full staff in the spring but had several drivers quit this year – one who retired, one who cited the pandemic and others who cited medical concerns in general.

Shelby Public Transit has been able to remain open throughout the pandemic but has reduced the number of passengers it’s transported. As of Wednesday, Shelby Public Transit had 2,402 riders in October, which is about 53% of the riders it had in October 2019 when 4,530 trips were made.

“It’s been essentially the same I would say since March or April,” Schalow said.

Shelby Public Transit provides service throughout Sidney and Shelby County and also offers connecting service to Miami County.

Community members utilize the transit to travel to a variety of places including work, school, medical appointments, shopping and more. People who schedule rides in advance largely have been able to book rides during the pandemic, Schalow said, but people who’ve attempted to schedule same-day service often find all rides already are booked for the day.

If Shelby Public Transit had enough drivers, it could fulfill more ride requests and potentially could expand services, Schalow said.

“We consider it a vital service for many, many people, and we consider it a very good option for others who use us,” he said.

Transit drivers are required to have a driver’s license; a commercial driver’s license isn’t required as all of the vehicles are small enough that a CDL isn’t needed.

Additionally, drivers must have a clean driving record, must pass a background check, must pass a medical examination, must pass an initial drug and alcohol screening and must be able to perform all functions of the job, which includes sitting for long periods of time, being able to get up and down steps and being able to help passengers on and off lifts. Drivers also are subject to random drug and alcohol testing.

Drivers generally work 30 hours or fewer per week. Schedules vary with service running from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday each week. Part-time drivers are paid $10.58-$12.99 an hour.

Anyone who is interested in applying for a transit driver position should visit the city of Sidney website,, or stop by Sidney City Hall, 201 W. Poplar St., Sidney, to get an application.

For more information about Shelby Public Transit, call 937-492-6117, email Schalow at or visit

Manager cites driver shortage for decline

By Kyle Shaner

Reach the writer at or 937-538-4824.

Reach the writer at or 937-538-4824.