By Jenna DeAngelis

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)MTA staff shortages, from pandemic-related problems to retirements, have led to service disruptions.

CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis got a close look at the agency’s hiring blitz and one man who jumped at the opportunity.

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Keeping trains moving is what keeps New York City going.

That’s among the many reasons Rashaad Milligan was honored to hop on board the MTA as a train conductor.

“It’s nice to have a job that’s not only important to you but others as well,” he said.

Prior to this, the father was working one job at a phone company and another at a hotel but trying to get his foot in the door at the MTA.

“I’ve been applying to the MTA since I was 19 years old. I’m 34,” Milligan said. “Once they call back, it’s an opportunity you don’t turn down.”

He started training in July and graduated in September, getting to work at a time the MTA needs it most.

The pandemic took a toll on the agency. More than 170 workers died, and many got sick. Ridership and revenue declines caused a temporary hiring freeze. Plus, retirements.

“Right now, we’re providing 93% of service for roughly 55% of the customers. There’s plenty of service out there to support New York’s recovery,” MTA acting chair and CEO Janno Lieber said. “That’s our standard, we’re going to keep going until we have all the service, and we get all our customers back.”

Crew shortages caused 17,000 train cancelations or delays in August and 14,000 in October.

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Lieber says numbers continue to improve with hiring and other efforts.

“Incentivizing the existing group, the train operators and the conductors, to forego vacation, to maybe have perfect attendance, to work a little longer hours,” he said.

New hires can’t get to work immediately. Training for some of these positions is a lengthy process; it takes months.

The agency is also offering retirees up to $35,000 to temporarily return to work. So far, 20 have taken advantage.

“We have 20% less cancelations because of crew shortages than we had last month. We’re really making progress,” Lieber said.

Milligan says he’s here to stay.

“As a person without a college degree, I didn’t think I’d have a pension. I didn’t think I could obtain the salary that I could obtain,” he said. “And I do not have to work two jobs anymore, so that’s nice.”

Lieber says the MTA works with city high schools and CUNY to cultivate students to enter the transit profession.

“They’re great jobs for New Yorkers and we want to use New York kids,” he said.

From bus and train operators to conductors, the MTA is down about 600 workers, hoping to fill the positions and get them into training over the next few months.

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For more information about available jobs with the MTA, visit new.mta.info/careers.

Jenna DeAngelis