After months of “ESSENTIAL TRIPS ONLY” service, King County Metro is getting ready for its shift back to more normal operation. With the planned return of fares next month. buses will also be equipped with new partitions to allow front-door boarding and protect drivers and riders plus new dispensers with free masks on the busiest routes.
Metro is now installing safety partitions to allow front-door boarding in preparation for restoring fares, targeted for Oct. 1, although a firm date has yet to be announced. The plexiglass safety partitions will swing into position when a driver opens the front door, minimizing interaction between boarding passengers and the driver. The partition also can be opened manually by the driver to allow them to leave their seat to assist passengers, including those who use mobility devices.
“With the addition of safety partitions – designed, engineered, and fabricated by Metro’s in-house vehicle maintenance staff – we have a new, first-of-its-kind innovation in the fight against this pandemic,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a statement. “Along with new mask dispensers and all the other safety measures Metro takes every day, we are proving Metro is ‘Ready when you are,’ whether you’re currently using transit or planning to resume your commute in the future.”
The new mask dispensers, meanwhile, are being added to 102 buses this month, starting with RapidRide buses on the A and F lines in south King county and 60-foot trolley buses on routes 7, 36, 43, 44, and 49 in Seattle. Metro says it intends to install more dispensers on other high-ridership routes in the future.
Metro says the new partitions cost around $3,200 — “about half the $6,000 cost for a comparable manual-only door from an outside vendor” — and federal CARES Act funding is being used for the project.
Metro stopped front-door boarding and collecting fares in March. It also cut back service after a widespread drop in ridership. Service will be increased in coming months, Metro says, as it sees demand ramp back up. Later this month, its latest service revisions will result in Metro operating 55 routes at pre-COVID service levels, with reduced service on 70 routes, and continued fully suspended service on 55 routes – “many of which are peak commuter routes that previously served many riders who now are teleworking.”
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