Lack of drivers delays Coast RTA summer service for third year in a row

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For the third year in a row, Coast RTA’s summer route service -- including its entertainment shuttle to and from Ocean Boulevard and Broadway at the Beach -- will not be ready at the kick off of summer.

This year’s reason is lack of drivers.

Brian Piascik, Coast RTA’s new chief executive officer, made his first executive decision to delay the summer service start date from June 1 to June 15.

“The biggest issue is we were 11 drivers short,” Piascik said. “We could have still run it, but we would have run our existing drivers ragged.”

The arrangement Coast RTA has with Horry County Schools allows for properly licensed drivers to be available for the added routes. This year, as opposed to last year’s service every half hour, will go back to running hourly as late as, for some routes, 11 p.m.

“The issue there is the school system finishes later than when we really need to get them started and get them oriented,” Piascik said. “I think this year there were fewer drivers who wanted to work their summers more than anything else. We just didn’t get an influx of those drivers that we were expecting.”

He said there still are a few openings for drivers, and he believes the later routes may have played a part in some of the drivers not wanting to drive for Coast.

In 2013, Coast RTA’s board had to pass an austerity budget because Horry County delayed giving the transit its fourth-quarter payment. The county funds Coast in four quarterly payments that total $1.05 million annually and it withheld the final payment that year until then-CEO Myers Rollins made a concerted effort to try and get more representation from the county on the transit’s board. Once the council was satisfied, it released the funds and Coast was able to reinstate the summer schedule.

In 2014, Horry County Council waited until late June to approve a funding agreement between the county and Coast RTA, which delayed the service until July.

Piascik said the start of the route this year also coincides annually with the fourth quarter of the transit’s budget, which relies heavily on local funding for operations. Add the hiring of a new CEO and sometimes the delay is inevitable.

“There are a lot of factors that really played into it,” Piascik said.

Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or on Twitter @TSN_JRodriguez.