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With ridership on trains and buses down by an estimated 83 percent, Sound Transit will introduce service reductions on additional ST Express routes starting Monday, March 30.
This follows previous announcements of service reductions on Link, Sounder and some ST Express service as our region responds to the COVID-19 pandemic. It also comes at the same time as our pre-scheduled Spring Service Change.
Starting on Saturday, March 21 Sound Transit will suspend fare requirements on buses and trains until further notice to help protect transit employees and riders through social distancing.
ST Express passengers other than riders using mobility devices or the boarding ramp will board and exit buses through rear doors whenever possible.
The suspension of fares and the new bus boarding policy follows the decision to temporarily reduce service on Link, Sounder and ST Express buses operated by King County Metro in light of drastically reduced demand, with ridership currently down nearly 70 percent.
Sound Transit will reduce service on Link light rail, Sounder trains and ST Express buses operated by King County Metro starting Monday, March 23 as a result of steep declines in ridership and staffing shortages in the wake of the COVID-19 emergency.
ST Express bus routes operated out of Snohomish County by Community Transit and out of Pierce County by Pierce Transit, as well as service on Tacoma Link service will remain unchanged for the time being.
However, service could be reduced in the future based on reduced ridership and/or staffing impacts.
The changes in service reflect significant declines in ridership since the beginning of the COVID-19 emergency.
As of the beginning of this week, system total ridership was down approximately 69 percent.
With these steep ridership drops we believe riders taking essential trips by transit will be able to maintain suggested social distancing guidelines on board trains and buses with the service reductions.
The new service levels also reflect the fact that the outbreak has led to operations and maintenance staff staying home in higher numbers, making it difficult to maintain existing service.
While implementing service reductions, Sound Transit remains committed to serving the public and will continue to evaluate needs related to transit-dependent riders as well as services for low-income, minority and limited-English-proficiency populations.
We will continue to run trains and buses at our earliest and latest service hours.
However, staffing impacts, further ridership reductions and/or government directives related to COVID-19 could impact service further as the regional response continues.
Link light rail
Closures of Downtown Seattle Link station will begin Friday evening and extend through the weekend as crews wrap up the Connect 2020 construction process.
When service reopens as expected on Monday, trains will continue running every 14 minutes as they have during the construction period. Passengers will no longer have to transfer at Pioneer Square and bicycle restrictions will be lifted.
Starting with the Monday afternoon commute, Sounder South weekday service will be reduced from 13 round trips to eight round trips.
The northbound trips being canceled are the 1502, 1506 and 1508 departures from Lakewood, and the 1516 and 1522 departures from Tacoma.
The southbound trips being canceled are the 1503, 1509, 1517, 1519, and 1523 departures from Seattle.
Also starting with the Monday afternoon commute, Sounder North weekday service will be reduced from four round trips to two round trips, with cancellation of the 1701 and 1705 departures from Everett and the 1700 and 1704 departures from Seattle.
ST Express buses operated by King County Metro
ST Express buses operated by King County Metro (Routes 522, 541, 542, 545, 550, 554, 555 and 556) will see an overall reduction in service of 15 percent.
During the COVID-19 response riders should take into account that electronic resources such as Google maps, One Bus Away and other applications and websites won’t have accurate information for all trips.
In keeping with social distancing measures encouraged by health authorities to reduce virus transmission risks, Sound Transit has directed its fare enforcement officers to limit hand-to-hand, close interactions between fare enforcement officers and passengers.
Until further notice, fare enforcement inspectors will not ask for proof of payment on board Link light rail or Sounder trains.
Sound Transit and its partners worked quickly last week to review and expand protocols for cleaning transit vehicles to help control the spread of the coronavirus/COVID-19.
Sound Transit services other than our Tacoma Link system are operated and maintained by agency partners, and we are grateful for their quick and dedicated work to help protect riders.
We do want to emphasize that riders ultimately have the most important role to play in protecting themselves and others.
We’re putting posters on vehicles reminding everyone to follow critical health guidelines.
People who experience potential symptoms need to avoid public areas, including riding transit.
It’s critical that we all wash our hands frequently and thoroughly, including before and after riding.
We need to avoid touching our faces with unwashed hands, and cover sneezes and coughs.
These actions that are up to each of us to observe will have the greatest impact protecting ourselves, our families and our communities.
The inescapable reality is that the surfaces of a newly cleaned train or bus can no longer be assumed sanitary after riders climb aboard again.
That said, the below actions will help.
Across all Sound Transit services, if there is an identifiable biohazard situation, the vehicle will be removed from service and disinfected.
If you see any unsanitary condition on board a train or bus or at a station, please text our Security Desk. It is staffed 24/7 at 206-398-5268.
Link Light Rail
King County Metro Transit operates and maintain Link under contract to Sound Transit.
On a daily basis, Metro staff sanitize every car with a spray disinfectant, including touch points, such as stanchions and handrails, and the driver area.
In addition, seats are spot cleaned as needed and floors are wet mopped.
Weekly cleanings include windows and ceilings, while all vehicle continue to receive a deep cleaning every 30 days.
Here's a look at steps to sanitize the surfaces on board a Link light rail train.
Amtrak, which maintains Sounder trains under contract to Sound Transit, has increased cleaning frequency on trains and at stations multiple times a day and in some cases, an hourly basis.
Through expanded services provided by custodial vendors, Amtrak increased the use of disinfectants to wipe down handrails, doorknobs, handles and restrooms.
Sound Transit crews clean and sanitize cars on a daily basis, wiping down touch points. Daily cleaning also includes seats, floors, windows, ceiling, and the operator cab are cleaned. Seats are deep cleaned on a monthly basis or as needed.
ST Express lines operated and maintained by King County Metro (Routes 522, 541, 542, 545, 550, 554, 555, 556)
Touch points include stanchions, entry-/exit-way grab rails, pull cords stop buttons, top of farebox and the driver’s work area.
Floors are cleaned daily.
ST Express lines operated by Community Transit (Routes 510, 511, 512, 513, 532, 535)
Vehicle cleaning includes nightly disinfecting of all high-touch areas on the buses.
Drivers are also given wipes to clean their area while the bus is in service. All trash is picked up and disposed of daily.
Floors, seats and windows are cleaned and disinfected daily. Bus exteriors are washed daily, including wheels.
ST Express lines operated by Pierce Transit (Routes 540, 544, 560, 566, 567, 574, 577, 578, 580, 586, 590, 592, 594, 595, 596)
All buses are cleaned and disinfected on a daily basis.
The cleaning involves wiping down grabbers, the fare box area, handrails and other high-touch areas.
Drivers are given wipes to clean their area while the bus is in service.
In addition, the buses are given spot checks and disinfecting touch ups between routes.
Seats, floors and windows are cleaned on as-needed basis but at least once every three weeks. In the event of an unsanitary condition on a bus, that bus is removed from service and deep cleaned and disinfected before it is returned to service.
Sound Transit continues working closely with public health agencies and our operating partners to help control the spread of the coronavirus.
The safety of our riders and the people who keep our trains and buses running is our top priority.
All Sound Transit trains and buses are cleaned nightly and maintenance crews taking extra steps to sanitize surfaces on trains, buses and stations daily.
Here's a look at steps to sanitize the surfaces on board a Link light rail train.
Just remember that these surfaces are only clean until someone touches them or coughs/sneezes on them.
Preventing the spread of coronavirus is a team effort.
If you see any unsanitary condition on board a train or bus or at a station, please text our Security Desk. It is staffed 24/7 at: 206-398-5268.
One of the main ways to stay healthy and slow the spread of the virus is by frequently washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands, covering your coughs with your elbows and staying home when you are sick.
Friday a King County resident’s tragic death following diagnosis with the novel coronavirus/COVID-19 drove home the threats that face communities around the world.
Sound Transit is among the agencies across our region and state that are mobilizing to help control the spread of the disease, and we ask you to play your part.
Crews are putting focus on cleaning vehicles and facilities more deeply and frequently, and removing any vehicle from service until it is disinfected when there is a biohazard.
If you see something on board a train or bus that needs attention please alert a transit employee.
You can call or text our security office 24 hours a day at 206-398-5268.
Our cleaning will put particular focus on “high touch” areas like handrails, escalators, elevator buttons, etc.
What can you do?
Transit riders have the most important role to play.
It is critical to observe the precautions that are being emphasized by health authorities. Among the most important is staying home and avoiding public places if you experience potential symptoms.
As with typical colds and flus, we can carry a virus before we are aware of any symptoms.
It’s critical to wash our hands often and thoroughly and avoid touching our noses, mouths and eyes with unwashed hands. Keep tissues handy and cover coughs and sneezes.
Health authorities are also emphasizing the effectiveness of “social distancing”— staying away from others when possible, especially those with potential symptoms.
We all know that can be difficult on transit, but remember it’s not rude to get up and move if you need to.
Health authorities have emphasized that so far widespread transmission of the virus is not occurring, but are planning response measures for the scenario of more cases.
Sound Transit will work with authorities and closely observe their guidance going forward.
Check back here for the latest updates.
Together our actions can help control the spread of this disease. Let’s all stay attentive and vigilant.