Transit, ferries taking extra cleaning precautions amid COVID-19 outbreak

In response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, public transit agencies are taking extra measures to ensure buses, trains and ferries are safe for commuters.

With thousands of daily riders, transit agencies like Community Transit, Sound Transit and Washington State Ferries have upped their cleaning practices and are encouraging riders to practice social distancing during their commute.

Each day, more than 33,000 people ride Community Transit buses in Snohomish County and parts of King County. Earlier this month, Community Transit contracted with a professional cleaning company and extra staff to disinfect high-touch areas on buses, said Community Transit spokesperson Nashika Stanbro.

“We disinfect the buses daily using a backpack sprayer and spray down all hard surfaces with (disinfectant), specifically to address COVID-1,” she said.

Stanbro said drivers’ areas are subject to deep cleaning in high-touch areas like handrails and drivers have access to cleaning materials, like disinfecting wipes. She added that they plan to issue surface disinfecting wipes to each bus driver as long as supplies are available.

However, with government officials and employers encouraging people to self-quarantine, many are opting to stay home. As a result, Stanbro said Community Transit ridership has declined.

After announcing Thursday that four bus drivers tested positive for the coronavirus, the agency said it would also be implementing new procedures for riders effective March 20.

Changes include free fare for riders and all boardings and exits through the rear doors only. The front door and first 10 feet of all buses will remain accessible for ADA customers only.

For more Community Transit updates, visit the agency’s blog.

Community Transit isn’t the only agency losing riders. On Thursday, Sound Transit announced it would reduce service on Link light rail, Sounder trains and ST Express buses operated by King County Metro.

Sounder North weekday service will be reduced from four round trips to two, with additional cancellations. Additionally, ST Express buses operated by King County Metro will also see an overall 15% reduction in service.

All changes will go into effect Monday, March 23.

Sound Transit and its partners — Amtrak and King County Metro — have also increased their cleaning protocols of trains, said Sound Transit spokesperson John Gallagher.

“We worked closely with our partners to review and expand protocols during this time,” he said.

For more information and updates for Sound Transit, visit their website.

Washington State Ferries (WSF) has placed an emphasis on riders practicing social distancing. Riders who drive on ferries are encouraged to stay in their vehicles and as of Tuesday, all galleys have been closed. Food vendors in the terminal have also been closed.

WSF has said it cannot extend the 90-day period for tickets and travel passes, but customers who are unable to use tickets or travel passes because of COVID-19 concerns may be eligible for a refund for the unused portion of their fare. All refund requests can be submitted online.

Riders with monthly WSF ReValue passes have been advised to curtail their travel to cancel their account to avoid future payments. Multi-ride ReValue pass users are also advised to suspend their accounts to stop payments and reactivate their account when they resume travel. Any remaining rides on either pass are still valid through the expiration date after cancelling or suspending the account.

More information about WSF can be found at its website.

–By Cody Sexton

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