Transit Agencies Begin Service Changes for Coronavirus Response

Public transit agencies are responding to declining ridership during the Coronavirus outbreak by reducing service. But the right balance between safe, reliable, and sustainable will be hard to calibrate in these difficult times.

Read Time: 2 minutes

March 16, 2020, 10:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Boston Subway T

Tupungato / Shutterstock

Adam Vaccaro reports: “With ridership drastically reduced due to the coronavirus outbreak, the MBTA is planning changes to service starting Tuesday, according to an internal memo sent to agency staff.”

“The memo from T general manager Steve Poftak did not describe the changes, but said they will be ‘based in part on ridership patterns and guidance provided by state public health officials,” according to Vaccaro.

The Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority recently reduced rush hour frequencies after ridership fell as a result of coronavirus concerns. As Vacarro notes, transit agencies will be challenged to find a balance of service, serving those who still require transit while ensuring trains don’t overcrowd and require too much physical proximity by riders:

Transit advocates on Sunday said it would be reasonable for the MBTA to reduce some service under the circumstances, but that the T must balance keeping service available for riders who work or must otherwise reach essential locations, such as grocery stores and healthcare facilities.

The T must also keep enough service to limit crowding on trains or buses that would more easily allow the virus to spread, they said. That could require targeted changes, route by route, especially on buses, advocates suggested.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, BART is posting daily updates ridership updates as coronavirus shuts down businesses and events around that region. The decision to post daily ridership updates was defended by the agency on Twitter thusly:

In Seattle, Sound Transit and King County Metro have said they will temporarily suspend fare enforcement actions," according to an article by Mischa Wanek-Libman.
[Update: Public transit in Cedar Rapids is now free, although the reporting does imply that service could eventually be suspended" "City of Cedar Rapids Transit is continuing service as of Monday, March 16. To limit interactions, fares won’t be collected."

Monday, March 16, 2020 in The Boston Globe

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