Last updated: March 20, 2020. Replaced by this article.
As you may have heard, there is an ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 novel coronavirus, a new strain of virus that is able to be transmitted from person to person. Several major employers have activated work-from-home policies and several large events have been cancelled and postponed.
For those who need to still get around, the transit agencies of the Puget Sound region have been responding to COVID-19 with new cleaning strategies, which we will summarize and update below.
In general, most agencies are encouraging riders to do the following:
- Avoid public places and mass gatherings when sick
- Avoid public places if at a high risk of infection (pregnant persons, over age 60, having an underlying health condition, having a weakened immune system)
- Cover your mouth when coughing and sneezing
- Wash hands frequently for 20 seconds
- Avoid touching your face
- Maintain a “social distance” of 6 feet between strangers
- Telecommute if possible or avoid unnecessary trips
There are several websites with more information on preventative measures and information about COVID-19: Washington State Dept. of Health, King County/Seattle Health, Snohomish Health District, Tacoma/Pierce County Health Dept.
In addition to the resources listed below (organized by operator), transit riders can protect themselves by using gloves, frequent handwashing, and avoiding touching surfaces when possible. One example being the use of ticket vending machines: it may be easier to instead load an ORCA pass or refill your e-purse the night before (or the afternoon before).
The Seattle Times also has excellent, paywall-free coverage of the coronavirus situation that is updated more frequently.
Sound Transit has announced that it will put more focus on cleaning vehicles and facilities “more deeply and frequently”, especially on “high touch” surfaces such as handrails, escalators, and elevator buttons.
Riders can call or text the security office at (206) 398-5268 to report a biohazard or unsanitary condition that requires attention. Sound Transit has promised to remove vehicles from service for deep cleaning in the event of a biohazard or spill.
As of March 12, Sound Transit’s fare enforcement on Link light rail and Sounder will not ask for proof of payment. The officers will still board trains, but will try to limit person-to-person contact.
As of March 19, Sound Transit will begin temporary reductions of service on Link, Sounder, and ST Express. Link will remain on its Connect 2020 schedule, with 14-minute frequencies, in addition to the weekend closure between SODO and Capitol Hill planned for March 20 to 21. Sounder trips will be reduced for both lines and ST Express trips will also be affected.
Fare collection will be suspended until further notice.
King County Metro
King County Metro is increasing the frequency of its cleanings, including the use of backpack sprayers every night. Buses will be given their monthly “deep clean” every 15 days ($), and drivers will be encouraged to carry disinfectant kits with them.
Metro has a hotline at (205) 553-3000 and also monitors the Twitter feed at @kcmetrobus for reports of unhygienic situations. For more immediate care, riders should alert the bus driver or another Metro employee.
As of March 12, Metro is temporarily ceasing in-person fare enforcement inspections. Fare enforcement officers will continue to board buses to inform passengers and assist in other situations.
The Via ride-hail system in the Rainier Valley will suspend all operations until further notice.
Community Transit has updated its vehicle cleaning procedures to include a nightly disinfecting of high-touch surfaces on buses, including handles and buttons. The agency’s main phone line at (425) 353-7433 is open weekdays from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Beginning March 20, all Community Transit buses will be fare-free. All customers will board through the rear doors on Community Transit buses except for those needing ADA or ramp access. On Swift, the middle and rear doors will be used except for those needing ADA or ramp access.
Community Transit buses are going fare-free beginning March 20 and will have reduced service beginning March 30.
Washington State Ferries
Washington State Ferries has issued a bulletin asking passengers to exercise good personal hygiene when riding its vessels. Ferries are typically given a quick clean of surfaces with disinfectant between departures, including tables, seats, and bathroom faucets, and undergo a deeper clean on a regular basis. Unsanitary conditions can be reported to the local customer service line at (206) 464-6400 or state line at 888-808-7977 (or 511) between 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.
According to spokesperson Ian Sterling (via The Times), there are plans to reduce ferry service if not enough employees are available for normal operations.
As of March 19, WSF is offering a refund for the unused portion of fares not used and waiving no-show fees on reserved sailings. All service to Sidney, British Columbia is cancelled until April 28. All galleys aboard ferries are closed and some seating areas on board may be cordoned off to promote social distancing.
As of March 16, Kitsap Transit is reducing capacity on its fast ferries and foot ferries to comply with the Governor’s order banning large gatherings. All sailings will be limited to 46 passengers: on the Bremerton fast ferry, passengers with reservations will be allowed to board first-come, first-serve; on the Kingston fast ferry, priority boarding will be given to passengers who ride a connecting bus to the terminal.
Beginning March 23, all ferry and bus services from Kitsap Transit will be fare-free.
Pierce Transit is adding additional cleanings for its buses and facilities, especially on high-touch surfaces. The agency wants riders to report unsanitary conditions to bus drivers or their customer service office at (253) 581-8000, option 1.
Beginning Tuesday, March 24, all trips on Pierce Transit will be fare-free until further notice. Passengers will be asked to use the rear doors for boarding except if they need ADA/ramp access.
Updated March 15: Intercity Transit will reduce several of its services beginning this week. Beginning on March 16, “The One” express buses and DASH shuttle buses in Olympia will be discontinued. Beginning March 18, trips on the Olympia-Tacoma express bus will be discontinued while other trips on the Olympia-Lakewood will continue with a reduced schedule. Dial-a-Lift service may also be affected.
Seattle Center Monorail
Updated March 16: The monorail has seen a massive decline in ridership, with only 5% of the expected ridership on Saturday, March 14, and will close until April 6.
Everett Transit is sanitizing all high-touch and porous surfaces on their buses and at facilities.
Beginning on March 23, Island Transit will begin using a reduced weekday schedule that is based on existing Saturday service levels but with extended hours of operation. Saturday service will remain the same.
Skagit Transit and Whatcom Transportation Authority
As of March 19, Skagit Transit buses are fare free to allow riders and drivers to observe appropriate social distancing.
The Whatcom Transportation Authority has also made its bus routes and paratransit fare free for the duration of the pandemic.