Our professional and personal lives have been dramatically upended by the spread of COVID-19, but regional public transit in greater Los Angeles is still moving -- though it's noticeably less crowded right now (and service is reduced in some places).
As of Wednesday, the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is running regular weekday service and agency officials say there are currently no plans to shut down.
But the agency "may adjust service on certain lines based... on street realities," spokeswoman Anna Chen wrote in a post on Metro's blog The Source.
The prevailing messaging from Metro: "If you can stay home, please do so."
Officials have advised the system only be used by "essential workers and those who need to access crucial resources."
"Metro is a mobility safety net for many people in Los Angeles County," Chen said. "That includes many who work in hospitals, nursing homes, groceries and other places that are too important to fail right now."
Metro has formed a Contagious Virus Response Task Force and is in regular communication with the county health department and the CDC. The agency has intensified cleaning at Union Station and other major transit hubs with a focus on frequently touched surfaces like doors, handrails and TAP vending machines. Trains and buses are being cleaned once a day.
The agency said it will follow the guidance of public health officials "should there be any instances of the virus on the transit system," Metro spokesman Dave Sotero told us last week. As of Wednesday, officials said they were not aware of any COVID-19 infections on its system or among its employees or contract workers.
Meanwhile, Metro's March board meeting was postponed and its headquarters downtown is now closed to the public (except for a few select appointment-based services).
One concern raised by monthly pass holders: will I get a refund if I'm under orders to work from home or self-quarantine and can't ride?
Yes, Metro officials said, but hang on to those passes.
"Once they start riding again, affected customers can call 866-TAPTOGO and we will add the additional days to their TAP cards," Chen wrote on Metro's blog.
Chen also announced that the ridership requirements attached to monthly parking permits have been waived for March and April.
WHAT ABOUT L.A. CITY'S PUBLIC TRANSIT?
As of Wednesday, all L.A. Department of Transportation transit services are operational and on normal schedules, according to department officials. That includes DASH and Commuter Express buses, along with senior and on-demand shuttle services.
We encourage Angelenos to practice healthy hygiene amid the spread of the Coronavirus;-- LADOT (@LADOTofficial) March 9, 2020
🚫 Avoid touching your face
🧼Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
🧻 Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or use the crook of your arm pic.twitter.com/7kabxC8ND9
LADOT is evaluating that decision "day-to-day," spokesman Colin Sweeney told LAist this week. The department is consulting with public health officials and service may change based on how the situation develops in L.A.
"There are still many people required to report to work [who] depend on our transit services to get there," Sweeney said. "So long as proper precautions and social distancing recommendations are observed, public transportation remains a safe option for healthy individuals."
The L.A. City Council has also tasked the department with establishing updated sanitation protocols for the dockless electric vehicles it manages -- as in scooters and e-bikes. Several of the companies licensed to operate in the city have already announced enhanced cleaning and employee hygiene procedures.
One company, Lime, has fully suspended its operations in L.A. and the rest of California -- among other cities and countries -- pulling thousands of scooters off SoCal streets.
Asked if LADOT was considering grounding scooters and e-bikes citywide, Sweeney told LAist it's a wait-and-see situation and the department is in regular contact with operators on the measures they're taking to keep riders safe.
Blue LA, an electric car-sharing service run through a partnership with LADOT, has suspended its operations "indefinitely," according to its website.
Your safety is our number one priority. In light of current events, the City of Los Angeles' Blue LA car sharing service will be suspended temporarily to help prevent the spread of #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/ExrxJst2XC-- LADOT (@LADOTofficial) March 16, 2020
Blue LA officials said they hope to resume service "as soon as the situation permits."
WHAT ABOUT TRANSIT SERVICES RUN BY OTHER CITIES?
Here's what we know as of Wednesday afternoon:
- The Antelope Valley Transit Authority has cut maximum occupancy on its buses by 50%.
- Foothill Transit announced a new service level system, in which they could potentially start scaling back service in response to the outbreak. The agency is currently operating at Level 1 -- "regular service, no disruptions." Level 6 would be the "last resort" of fully suspended service.
- Big Blue Bus, operated by the city of Santa Monica, has halted service on a few of its lines to "ensure continuity of operations and match ridership demand."
- Both Pasadena Transit's buses and its on-demand shuttle service for seniors and people with disabilities remain in service as of Wednesday.
- Bus services in the cities of Glendale and Burbank are also operating as normal.
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