Starting March 29, riders on the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority's Metro buses won't have to pay a fare due to concerns about transmission of COVID-19.
The fare suspension will run until at least April 21, when the SORTA board will have to vote to extend it at its regular monthly meeting.
Metro is also adjusting route schedules, according to a news release.
Most of the system's weekday routes will operate on a Saturday schedule for the time being, though routes 1, 28, 38X, 42X, 50, 67X, 71X, 82X, 85 and Metro*Plus will continue on their normal weekday schedule. Some other express routes will not operate at this time.
“I am incredibly thankful to all of Metro’s employees and to our operators who are on the frontlines ensuring that we are able to continue providing this critical service to our community during this unprecedented time,” Metro CEO and General Manager Darryl Haley said in a statement. “This service modification will allow us to continue providing service for those who depend on us to get to work, grocery stores and other essential travel in the safest way possible, while adjusting to service level needs.”
You can find all the details about route changes here.
The move suspending fares comes after the SORTA board's monthly meeting this morning, and after transit advocates pushed for the measure due to the risk of exposure to COVID-19 faced by Metro drivers.
Better Bus Coalition President Cam Hardy has also advocated allowing passengers to enter buses via the vehicles' rear doors to further minimize drivers' potential exposure to the virus.
"Free fare and back door boarding," Hardy tweeted March 24. "I wish there was some urgency around this. Protect our bus transportation system!"
Metro is also stressing that it is taking new steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. According to a news release, those include:
- Conducting rigorous daily cleaning of all buses.
- Applying a chlorinated, sanitizing disinfectant that kills the coronavirus to all buses and surfaces inside buses and facilities, including poles, stanchions and seats and facilities, including Government Square.
- Using an electrostatic sprayer which promotes surface adhesion of the disinfectant.
- Closing its administrative office lobby to walk-in customers.
- Practicing social distancing in all workplaces.
- Temporarily changing the "No Facial Coverings" policy to allow surgical masks to be worn by operators and customers while riding the bus.