LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The public transit system in America has taken a big hit since the onset of the pandemic.
Local systems like Rock Region Metro have also been forced to make changes to keep people safe and save money. The agency says ridership is down about 50 percent.
It’s one of many transit agencies across the country urging Congress for emergency funds for what they say is a “dire financial crisis.”
Emanuel Covington rides the bus and says he feels safe.
“They got the ‘do not sit here’ sign on there, on some of the seats,” Covington said. “They got it safe as possible.”
With a student ID, the four rides Covington takes each are free.
And with no car, he depends on the bus, and hopes things don’t change.
“I hope they don’t go down, because that would be a big hurt for me,” Covington said.
Because of COVID-19, Rock Region Metro has had to limit passengers and temporarily suspend some routes.
“We have had a significant loss in ridership, probably about 50 percent,” said Becca Green with RR Metro.
Bus schedules have been adjusted almost daily because of pandemic-related staff absences, especially on the weekends.
“So, we’ve just had to kind of roll with those punches, and unfortunately, what that means is when that happens, we don’t get the number of people showing up for work that we expect so we have to cut some service,” Green said.
RR Metro says “CARES Act” funding has helped them get through the pandemic.
The agency is waiting to see what President Biden’s COVID-19 relief care package looks like and how that might help them stay afloat without having to reduce more services.
“A lot of people in our community are totally transportation, transit-dependent,” Green said.
People like Covington, who don’t have another choice.
“I don’t know, man,” Covington said. “It’s in limbo. I hope it gets better.”
RR Metro says the pandemic caused them to expand their Metro Connect program near the airport.
That’s an on-demand ride share service that costs the same as a ride on one of their busses.