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Due to the surge in COVID-19 cases in the city, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (L.A. Metro) is facing staffing shortages that are impacting their bus and rail service. Because of this, some bus and rail trips will likely be canceled over the next few weeks.
On Jan. 4, L.A. Metro reportedly said it had to cancel about 10% of trips. There doesn’t seem to be a specific order for the canceled trips. On some days certain parts of the bus system have been hit harder than others — and some bus lines are impacted more than others. It is expected that the canceled trip or two on any individual bus line will result in crowding on subsequent trips.
Moreover, the bus lines have also been impacted given that about 30% of the operators have been out due to either being quarantined, caring for family members, or having COVID-19 themselves. The number of positive cases among agency staff and contractors has reportedly doubled in the past month.
It is expected that the changes to transit service will continue until the number of COVID-19 cases decreases in the region, that way more employees can return to work. Other transit agencies around the region — like LADOT and Foothill Transit — are also experiencing similar challenges.
The authority clarified that it believes the increase in cases at L.A. Metro is due to widespread community transmission of COVID-19 and not tied directly to the transit system. As previously reported, scientists have said that public transit has proven to be one of the most COVID-safe places to be outside the home. Many scientific studies have shown that it’s largely safe to take public transportation given that many public transit vehicles are relatively uncrowded, well-ventilated, and usually not the site of the kind of loud conversations that can accelerate the spread of airborne particles. Moreover, the fact that most transit agencies are requiring personal protective equipment to passengers also factors in. Scientists also say that most intra-urban public transit trips are too short for passengers to inhale the high concentration of aerosols necessary for virus transmission.
On The Source, L.A. Metro wrote that they continue to provide as much room for social distancing on buses as is practical within the financial and staffing resources they have and that they are trying to keep buses at no more than 75% of seated capacity, down from the 130% standard they used prior to the pandemic.
L.A. Metro’s increase in cases is merely mirroring the county and state surge in cases. The agency reportedly said it will continue to run as much of its planned service as it can to provide essential trips for riders.
However, as vaccinations for coronavirus have been underway in Los Angeles County, L.A. metro announced that it is working on a plan to get its staff — especially its frontline staff — vaccinated as soon as possible.