The number of new COVID-19 cases has exploded in Southern California over the past two months — and Metro, unfortunately, is feeling the impact on our bus and rail service due to staffing shortages. As a result, some bus and rail trips will likely be canceled each day over the next few weeks. For example, on Monday, Jan. 4, we had to cancel about 10 percent of trips.
The canceled trips are not evenly distributed among our transit system. On some days certain parts of our bus system have been hit harder than others — and some bus lines are impacted more than others. A canceled trip or two on any individual bus line is likely to result in crowding on subsequent trips.
We encourage riders to use Transit — Metro’s official smartphone app — to plan bus and rail trips and check crowding predictions. We also suggest allowing additional time for your travel.
In the past few days, about 30 percent of Metro’s bus operators have been out due to either being quarantined, caring for family members or having COVID-19. The number of positive cases among agency staff and contractors has doubled in the past month.
These impacts to transit service will likely continue until the number of COVID-19 cases decreases in our region and more employees can return to work. Other transit agencies around the region — including LADOT and Foothill Transit — are experiencing similar challenges.
We believe the increase in cases at Metro is due to widespread community transmission of COVID-19 — and not tied directly to the transit system. Metro’s increase in cases is mirroring the county and state surge in cases.
From the L.A. County Department of Public Health’s press release Monday:
“Everyone needs to keep in mind that community transmission rates are so high that you run the risk of exposure whenever you leave your house. Assume this deadly, invisible virus is everywhere, looking for a willing host…Avoid any non-essential activity; Public Health suggests you take a break from shopping, avoid any type of gathering, and exercise by yourself or with members from your household. Currently, more than one in five people who get tested are positive, and this helps explain why there is so much risk when you socialize with people you don’t live with.”
Metro continues to provide as much room for social distancing on buses as is practical within the financial and staffing resources we have. We are trying to keep buses at no more than 75 percent of seated capacity — lower than the 130 percent standard we used prior to the pandemic.
Metro has also joined the American Public Transportation Association and transit agencies across the nation in committing to specific measures to help ensure the safe return of riders to our system.
As part of that effort, we’re requiring all riders to wear face coverings, we’re ensuring good ventilation on buses and trains and we’ve enhanced cleaning of our system with an emphasis on high touchpoint areas. We are also protecting our bus operators by requiring them to wear face coverings, having riders board via the rear doors on buses, using plastic barriers to help shield the driving area of each bus and thoroughly cleaning buses with approved disinfectants.
Metro will continue to run as much of our planned service as we can to provide essential trips for riders. We also encourage everyone to follow local health orders and stay home as much as possible.