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METRO To Waive Transit Fares In Harris County During Coronavirus Crisis

The agency says it will maintain services even though many regular riders are now working at home. That includes park and ride buses for people employed in the Texas Medical Center.

METRO has put placards on all its buses asking people not to sit close.
METRO has put placards on all its buses asking people not to sit close.

Despite a dramatic drop in ridership because of the COVID-19 crisis, METRO says it plans to keep running buses and trains, but with some modifications.

METRO CEO Tom Lambert told News 88.7 the transit agency will make tweaks "to align service needs to ridership."

Systemwide, METRO has seen an over 40% drop in ridership since the coronavirus first became an issue. The biggest drop is for the park and ride buses where ridership has fallen over 60%.

The biggest change will start on Monday when METRO will waive all fares. Local buses will run on a Saturday schedule, but Lambert said they are adding additional buses on routes with high ridership so they can space out seating for riders. Placards on the buses are already asking riders to give everyone plenty of room.

Lambert said that since they aren't collecting fares, they're asking bus riders to board at the back door for the safety of operators and other riders.

Changes are also being made to protect elderly and disabled riders who use METROLift. Lambert said those vans can carry a total of four wheelchair passengers, but will now be limited to two.

As for commuter service, Lambert said they're committed to keeping the park and ride buses running for the benefit of workers in the Texas Medical Center. METRO is also adding a shuttle bus service within the Med Center.

On top of that, upcoming meetings of the METRO Board of Directors will be held by videoconference. Lambert said the public will be able to see those meetings online and make public comments, in accordance with state open meetings laws.