SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — Sangamon Mass Transit District (SMTD) announced Thursday that the suspension of service on routes to the outlying communities of Chatham, Riverton, Rochester and Sherman will start from Friday, December 31 to Tuesday, January 18 due to staff shortages.

“We’ve been having to mandate overtime for several weeks now to continue to run full service, and, in order to give some relief to our operators, we need to pull back for a couple of weeks,” said SMTD Managing Director Steve Schoeffel. “We never like to suspend service, but this will allow us some time to get people back and to get some trainees a little further through the process.”

Schoeffel said the staffing issues are the result of a perfect storm of circumstances. Regular end-of-year vacations, various employees on leave for such duties as military service and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) absences, as well as the usual seasonal sick call-ins are driving the inordinate amount of overtime.

Schoeffel stated, “a higher-than-normal number of people out on leave or calling in sick have combined to force a lot of mandated overtime that just isn’t sustainable over a long period of time.”

While there have been a handful of absences due to COVID-19 positive tests or exposures to family members, Schoeffel said the pandemic hasn’t been the cause of the service interruption.

“We’ve been struggling with this overtime problem and hoping it would resolve itself over time,” he said. “But we reached a point this week where we need to take action to relieve some of the pressure. So, we’re suspending the Urbanized Area routes that currently have the lowest ridership of any routes in our system but contain a number of pieces of work that normally have to be covered. We expect the suspension to be a temporary measure and that we can get back to regular service in a couple of weeks.”

Passengers in the affected communities may call SMTD’s Access Paratransit office at 217-522-8594 24 hours in advance to schedule a ride while the service is suspended.