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After three successive service cuts starting in mid-March, King County Metro announced Monday that some buses will resume service. The plan to restore service includes extra trips on several routes and fare-free rides through the month of May.
"Service cuts have primarily affected weekday service, resulting in nearly a 30% reduction of trips. The latest counts indicate that weekday bus ridership has somewhat stabilized at around a 73% drop over last year," writes Stephen Fesler. The most stable ridership since the onset of the pandemic has come from primarily low-income, urban communities that rely heavily on public transit day-to-day. Extra bust trips are prioritizing services in these areas where the coronavirus has least impacted ridership.
In addition to increased trips, signage will be installed in transit vehicles to promote the observance of social distancing mandates. Starting in the next two weeks, signage will include placards placed on seatbacks to enforce social distancing, "limiting capacity on buses to 12 riders on 40-foot buses and 18 riders on 60-foot buses." Metro will also continue to request that symptomatic riders to refrain from using their services and will require all riders to wear masks.
Despite these restrictions and requirements, several metro staff members have been exposed to the coronavirus and contracted COVID-19, including one operator who died from the disease. Given these concerns and financial distress due to the lack of federal assistance, Metro is expected to have a difficult time recovering from the decrease in ridership.