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Columbus Bus Driver Union Doesn't Want Driverless Buses Without Staff Onboard

Adora Namigadde
Union members giving press conference at the Ohio Statehouse on Nov. 6, 2017.

Central Ohio may be investing heavily in driverless trucks, buses and cars, but the Columbus bus drivers’ union says autonomous buses shouldn't run without staff onboard.

COTA has said that they would like to eventually have buses without drivers on their routes. That makes many of the 810 people in Local 208 of the Transportation Workers Union nervous.

Andrew Jordan, union president, says bus operators and maintenance workers could find themselves unemployed if they don’t work with legislators.

“It would be devastating in the African-American community as predominantly the bus drivers are African-American," Jordan says. "And to displace the well-paid middle class jobs in those communities would be devastating.”

Jordan says nothing can be done to stop technology from developing, and the union is eager to work with lawmakers to understand the implications of that tech.

“An autonomous bus cannot and will not see a mother with a stroller and bags full of groceries coming down the street to get to the bus,” Jordan said.

According to Jordan, bus drivers in Columbus earn between $14-28 an hour. 

Adora Namigadde was a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU News in February 2017. A Michigan native, she graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in French.