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Davis, California

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Unitrans and CoHo worker shortages must be addressed as quickly as possible

Despite efforts to increase staffing at essential ASUCD units, basic student needs aren’t being met

Unitrans and the CoHo — two absolutely essential services at UC Davis — are facing serious worker shortages. Unitrans serves over 3 million riders annually and the CoHo has more than 7,000 daily customers. Both are severely understaffed this fall and thus haven’t been able to support the UC Davis community in the way that it needs.

Many students, especially those who cannot walk or bike to campus, rely on Unitrans as their primary means of transportation. Due to the shortage, however, bus lines are running a maximum of twice per hour (rather than every 15 minutes as they would if operating normally) and some are only running once per hour. Students therefore must pick between arriving early or being late to class if they are unable to take the earlier bus. This decrease in available bus times makes getting to and from campus inconvenient for students who do not have other methods of transportation available to them. 

The CoHo has also had to reduce service; it now closes at 4 p.m. on weekdays except on Fridays, when it is not open at all, reducing options for students who regularly purchase food there, especially because it is one of the primary places to buy food on campus for those not on a meal plan. Students also use the area to eat food brought from home and make use of the microwaves near the CoHo. With limited hours of operation, the time in which students can use the space is also limited. And as we move into the cooler months, students need indoor places on campus where they can eat and study. 

Not only do we need these services, but we’re also paying additional fees each year to support them. The Basic Needs and Services Referendum of 2020, as well as the Unitrans Fee Referendum of 2019, provide additional financial support for ASUCD and Unitrans, respectively. The budget is sufficient for the CoHo and Unitrans to be fully employed; students are paying for services operating at full capacity but are not seeing the benefits.

The worker shortage has not only impacted students in general, but it has also put stress on current student employees and career staff of these units who must maintain the highest possible level of service until more employees are hired. 

And unfortunately, the hiring process is slow. Onboarding for new ASUCD employees takes time, and this does not even include the hours spent training — which for Unitrans is an extensive 70 hours before they can drive students

To rectify this employee deficit, both units have put in effort through hiring campaigns, tabling and, for Unitrans, increasing wages to make the job more appealing to students. The CoHo, however, may struggle to find student employees when some other on-campus jobs offer higher wages. Additionally, students may be more incentivized to work in off-campus food industry positions where they would receive tips.

Although we, as students, feel inconvenienced by fewer hours of operation as a result of the shortage, we understand that this is a transition. Unitrans drivers cannot be safely trained in less time, and hiring can only happen so quickly. We hope that efforts to appeal to students and hire more employees will allow for this shortage to be overcome as quickly as possible. 

While the members of the Editorial Board do not work for Unitrans or the CoHo and cannot, therefore, recommend it based on our personal experiences, these jobs do offer the ability to be employed on campus. If you are looking for an on-campus job, perhaps consider working for one of these two units — you would be helping supply a basic service that the student population sorely needs.

Written by: The Editorial Board

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