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Want to drive a bus? TriMet seeks drivers in huge, five-year hiring frenzy

TriMet is expanding an already unprecedented hiring process.

The Portland metro region's public transit authority announced this week that it plans to hire hundreds of new bus drivers over the next few years. The agency expects to bring on 20 new bus operators every three weeks until at least 2018 — something it has been doing quietly through national job fairs since 2013.

Now, however, TriMet is publicly reaching out beyond its main service area and searching for future employees throughout the Pacific Northwest.

"To hire 20 people every three weeks, we had to look beyond the Portland-metro area and expand our efforts into Washington and the rest of Oregon," TriMet spokesman Andrew Longeteig told Pamplin Media Group on Friday. "We're trying to just keep up with demand. It's a challenge in a good economy."

TriMet's next hiring event will be held on Saturday, Sept. 17, at the Oregon Convention Center, 777 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., in Portland, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The hiring announcement was made on the heels of other TriMet service expansion news spurred by a payroll tax increase approved by TriMet's board of directors in 2015.

Currently, TriMet employs about 2,800 people in the tri-county area, including roughly 1,200 bus or MAX drivers. Washington County is home to 576 TriMet employees throughout various departments, Longeteig said.

The challenges of keeping up with added and altered bus and rail services throughout the region were further complicated by internal promotions and retirements among the agency's current bus operator personnel, prompting the unique hiring frenzy, Loneteig said.

Most new bus operators will earn $14.25 per hour during the six-week training period, Longeteig said. After training, hourly compensation increases to $15.63 for part-time drivers, with pay increases occuring every four months, eventually reaching the top rate of $28.39 per hour. Full-time opportunities become available after the first 12 months of employment.

Prospective bus operators don't need a commercial driver's license, Loneteig said. TriMet provides that certification as part of its training.

The average annual salary for bus operators after three years of service is $60,000.

However, Longeteig added, even part-time employees working at or more than 30 hours per week receive vacation, retirement, and full health benefits — and the agency is always receptive to employees maneuvering into other positions within the company.

An employee working in TriMet's Human Resources Department, for example, opted to forego an office for a steering wheel "because she wanted to change things up — get out from behind a desk," he said.

"And a lot of people choose to stay part-time for the flexibility," Longeteig continued, noting how schedules and routes for drivers typically change every quarter to break up any chance of monotony. "If a person wants to experience the city, this is a good opportunity for that."

For more information, visit trimet.org/careers.