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How LA Metro and Other Public Transit Agencies are Adapting to Our New Coronavirus Reality

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Plenty of leg room on the Red Line these days. | Chava Sanchez/LAist
Plenty of leg room on the Red Line these days. | Chava Sanchez/LAist

Our professional and personal lives have been dramatically upended by the spread of COVID-19, but regional public transit in greater Los Angeles is still moving — though it's noticeably less crowded right now (and service is reduced in some places).

As of Wednesday, the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is running regular weekday service and agency officials say there are currently no plans to shut down.

But the agency "may adjust service on certain lines based... on street realities," spokeswoman Anna Chen wrote in a post on Metro's blog The Source.

The prevailing messaging from Metro: "If you can stay home, please do so."

Officials have advised the system only be used by "essential workers and those who need to access crucial resources."

"Metro is a mobility safety net for many people in Los Angeles County," Chen said. "That includes many who work in hospitals, nursing homes, groceries and other places that are too important to fail right now."

Metro has formed a Contagious Virus Response Task Force and is in regular communication with the county health department and the CDC. The agency has intensified cleaning at Union Station and other major transit hubs with a focus on frequently touched surfaces like doors, handrails and TAP vending machines. Trains and buses are being cleaned once a day.

The agency said it will follow the guidance of public health officials "should there be any instances of the virus on the transit system," Metro spokesman Dave Sotero told us last week. As of Wednesday, officials said they were not aware of any COVID-19 infections on its system or among its employees or contract workers.

Man mopping a metro train car | Courtesy Los Angeles Metro
Man mopping a metro train car | Courtesy Los Angeles Metro

Parts of Union Station will be closed this week as a result of the outbreak, but officials said it won't affect operations or access to Amtrak, Metrolink or Metro's rail and bus lines.

Riders on the B (Red), D (Purple) and L (Gold) lines, along with bus riders, will be "appropriately guided to those services by security and station personnel," Chen said.

Meanwhile, Metro's March board meeting was postponed and its headquarters downtown is now closed to the public (except for a few select appointment-based services).

One concern raised by monthly pass holders: will I get a refund if I'm under orders to work from home or self-quarantine and can't ride?

Yes, Metro officials said, but hang on to those passes.

"Once they start riding again, affected customers can call 866-TAPTOGO and we will add the additional days to their TAP cards," Chen wrote on Metro's blog.

Chen also announced that the ridership requirements attached to monthly parking permits have been waived for March and April.

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