NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (News release) – Rock Region METRO is modifying public transit bus service beginning Friday, March 20 in anticipation of an increase in front-line employee absences and in response to federal administration recommendations to reduce the size of gatherings of people and encourage social distancing. METRO remains committed to working with the community to maintain vital public transit service during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak while taking additional measures to reduce exposure risk to riders and staff members.
On Friday, March 20, service on Routes 17 Mabelvale/Downtown, 25 Pinnacle Mountain Express, 26 Maumelle/Oak Grove Express and 36 Jacksonville/Sherwood Express will be cut to re-allocate buses to high-ridership routes to reduce passenger loads. Additional buses will be placed on Route 3 Baptist Medical Center, 5 West Markham, 10 McCain Mall, 14 Rosedale, 22 University Ave./Mabelvale and 23 Baseline/Southwest. Non-essential service such as METRO Streetcar service was cut Tuesday, March 17 in an effort to re-direct staff resources to areas of higher need. At this time, METRO Connect service, the agency’s relatively new on-demand microtransit service, is still in operation, as is METRO Links paratransit service.
“We understand the inconvenience a service cut may create with riders,” said Charles D. Frazier, METRO executive director. “METRO is weighing all service decisions carefully and balancing basic public transportation needs with public health needs, including the needs of our employees.”
All METRO staff members are still working and providing service and service support at this time.
To stay informed and help reduce risk exposure and practice social distancing, METRO has the following tips for riders: Sign up for the free METRO enewsletter at the bottom of rrmetro.org, follow @rrmetro on social media, download the free METROtrack smartphone app and check it for service alerts, download the free Token Transit smartphone app to purchase bus passes remotely (caregivers can use tokenttransit.com to send passes to loved ones’ smartphones) and find how-to-ride information at rrmetro.org/metro-transit-101. Finally, email METRO at email@example.com with questions or concerns.
Passenger loads will be limited for Routes 3, 5, 10, 14, 22 and 23; riders may be asked to wait for the next available bus, which will follow the regular route schedule as closely as possible. Route 17 is a duplicative route that covers much of the Route 22 service area; Route 17 riders are encouraged to use Route 22 and can find related map and schedule information at rrmetro.org.
Response to COVID-19 to Date
It has been a standard practice to sanitize vehicles; offer on-board hand sanitizer stations to riders and hand sanitizer stations at the River Cities Travel Center (the downtown Little Rock local bus station); offer an on-site, full-time janitor at the travel center; and offer METRO drivers and other employees hand sanitizer stations and disposable gloves at each METRO property prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. These measures continue. In addition, METRO has purchased special machines to fog sanitizer product into fleet vehicles nightly and has increased its fleet sanitation schedule, wiping down all high-touch surfaces daily. METRO is also increasing sanitation procedures at each METRO property to reduce the risk of virus exposure for employees.
Potential Additional Service Reductions
Should METRO be forced to reduce service, priority will be given to service for area dialysis patients, some of whom rely on METRO fixed bus and paratransit service to get to multiple weekly appointments. As with all service alerts, riders may find service alerts at the top of all webpages at rrmetro.org, within the free METROtrack smartphone app and at rrmetrotrack.org.
“Our service is taking health care workers to their jobs, patients to health care appointments and families to needed social services organizations every day, and those services are still in critical need during this outbreak. We are encouraging our employees to practice good hygiene so we can meet the critical mobility needs of central Arkansans,” said Frazier. “As we move forward, we will keep riders aware of any service changes and ask for patience in advance in the event that additional service reductions need to be made in the future.”