Transportation services are evolving and adapting to the world’s rapidly changing needs. California’s March 19 “Safer at Home” order keeps residents at home, drastically reducing the daily use of cars, buses, and trains.
“We have seen significant drops in trips across all fleets,” said Joshua Sanchez, sales and account coordinator for Yellow Cab.
As ridership drops, local service providers are scaling back. Effective March 22, Long Beach Transit (LBT) has modified its bus schedule. LBT is now operating buses seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, some Long Beach buses ran from 5 a.m. until 2 a.m.
In addition, LBT has suspended service on certain lines. The Passport and the Water Taxi are not currently operating and the buses that once carried students to Cal State Long Beach or shuttled them between the two Long Beach City College campuses have been suspended, according to Michael Gold, vice president of customer relations and communication for Long Beach Transit. Gold said there is also an increased headway (time between buses) on lines that are still running.
To keep germs from spreading, Gold said that disinfectants are being used on high touch areas, like doors, seats and pull-cords. Buses are cleaned at the beginning of each day; when schedules allow, the crews that monitor and clean bus stops are also cleaning buses during layovers. A safety card on the bus reminds riders to follow CDC recommendations for hand-washing and maintaining social distance.
In November 2019, Metro completed a nine-month, $350 million project to improve the A Line, formerly called the Blue Line. Pre-COVID-19, Metro A Line trains were running from downtown Long Beach to downtown Los Angeles every six minutes during peak hours. Now, according to Jose Ubaldo, a spokesperson for Metro, trains are running every 12 minutes from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and every 20 minutes after 6 p.m. The A Line now begins its final daily run at midnight.
Ubaldo said that Metro messages encourage passengers to respect CDC measures; he added that reduced ridership now makes it easier for riders to space themselves out when they are on the train. Metro plans to add hand sanitizing stations, but it does not yet have a date for these installations.
Sanchez said that Yellow Cab is providing disinfectant supplies to its drivers and taking every precaution it can. He said the company is now working with officials in various cities to coordinate special transportation options for seniors. In addition, Yellow Cab is beginning a rollout of meal delivery programs.
According to its website, Uber has “a team available 24/7 to support public health authorities in their response to the epidemic.” The site also says that Uber is “working to provide drivers with disinfectants to help them keep their cars clean.”
Each day brings new information about public health and safety. LBT and Metro spokespeople both cited their organizations’ daily efforts to communicate with government officials and make whatever modifications are deemed necessary.
“We appreciate our customers’ patience,” Gold said. “There’s a lot going on right now and we are trying to keep up as best we can.”