Island Transit reduces service amid coronavirus outbreak
— Created March 25, 2020 by Kathy Reed
By Kathy Reed
Island Transit has implemented its emergency service plan, greatly reducing bus service for Whidbey and Camano Island residents.
The plan went into effect Monday, the result of the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. Although services have been reduced, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order is not expected to further reduce services.
“The Governor’s declaration doesn’t change anything for us,” said Island Transit Executive Director Todd Morrow. “Transportation/transit is one of those essential (public) services that is expected to continue.”
Details of the current operating schedule are available online at islandtransit.org, but overall, the schedule looks much like the Saturday schedule the agency has been providing. There will be some additional routes and paratransit services will continue Monday through Saturday, but the overall emergency service plan represents about a 50 percent reduction.
“Island Transit is responding as best we can to this COVID-19 outbreak using the latest guidance from public health and other professionals,” said Morrow. “Our goal is to protect our riders, the public, and employees while providing an essential public service. The mission of Island Transit is to provide safe, accessible, convenient, and friendly public transportation service which enhances our Island quality of life.”
With safety of its drivers and riders in mind, the transportation agency has also implemented new cleaning policies.
“We are providing a level of cleaning that exceeds what some other systems are doing,” Morrow said. “We are using chemicals approved for this situation by the scientific community. We wipe down and disinfect all those ‘high touch’ areas each evening. During the course of the day, our coach operators can use the wipes that we have provided them to wipe down those rails, if they feel that is necessary and they are able to do that.”
Passenger seats, floors, windows and mirrors are all being disinfected daily. Protective kits are also being issued to drivers and include hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, gloves and masks.
While the agency is unable to screen passengers who ride the bus, riders are being asked to use recommended sanitary practices, such as staying home if sick, covering coughs and sneezes and washing their hands frequently.
In order to comply with social distancing guidelines, passengers are encouraged to sit at least six feet apart and the bus seats immediately behind drivers have been removed.
“this provides that distance for our drivers,” said Morrow. “Of course, the most important social distancing practice is for the sick to stay home and not ride the bus.”
Morrow said Island Transit had already seen a decline in ridership as more people decided to stay home. However, a lengthy mandate to stay at home could have an adverse effect on the overall economy, which in turn could have an impact on the nonprofit transportation agency.
“Some of the money we receive is determined in part by our ridership,” he explained. “However, ridership has tanked across the region, state, and nation. Approximately 70 percent of our funding comes from local sales tax. If the economy in Island County falters we will lose revenue. In terms of the financial impacts of this, there may be some reimbursement of our costs associated with the outbreak. We have had to spend more money on supplies, schedules, protective equipment, etc.”
Morrow encourages all Island Transit riders to check out its website, www.islandtransit.org, to see how these service reductions may affect them and to verify office hours. Riders can also click on Rider Alerts to sign up for an automated e-alert system.