Bay Area transit agencies implement COVID-19 safety measures

BART Station
Ronnie Ghose/File
BART implemented a 15-step plan with similar conditions to the Riding Together: Bay Area Healthy Transit Plan, including mandated face coverings and physical distancing.

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Twenty-five Bay Area transit agencies and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission collaborated to create the Riding Together: Bay Area Healthy Transit Plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As stay-at-home orders are lifted, transit agencies are following the Healthy Transit plan to implement safety measures, including requiring face coverings, maintaining a physical distance of at least 3 feet between passengers and disinfecting high-touch areas. Through the plan, transit agencies aim to reduce exposure for customers and employees, increase the public’s confidence in public transit and encourage healthy practices.

According to Tess Lengyel, executive director of the Alameda County Transportation Commission, the commission provides monthly funding to many Alameda transit agencies and other agency partners to fund the plan and other transit services. She added that transit operators have developed strong safety measures.

“The operators have really come together and have taken this very seriously and are implementing safety and making sure people can ride,” Lengyel said.

Employees of the agencies are also given priority testing and are provided with personal protective equipment, according to a press release.

On May 27, BART implemented a 15-step plan with similar conditions to the Healthy Transit plan, including mandated face coverings and physical distancing, according to BART spokesperson Chris Filippi.

“Bay Area transit agencies are uniting with the common goal of providing a safe ride for the public as the region responds to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic,” the press release states.

BART has also increased train frequency during peak rider hours, with trains running longer to encourage physical distancing between passengers, added Filippi.

Both AC Transit and BART already require face coverings for passengers, according to Filippi and AC Transit spokesperson Robert Lyles. BART stations also have masks to hand out when necessary, Filippi added.

“We ask that riders respect the emergency order and our staff members,” Lyles said in an email. “If non-compliance with face coverings disrupts service, we will contact our law enforcement partners.”

AC Transit has increased its safety measures, including regular cleaning and disinfecting and issuing N95 masks, gloves, wipes and sanitizers to staff, according to Lyles.

These measures have been in place since March on AC Transit, which remained operational through stay-at-home orders, added Lyles.

“We are essential to the Bay Area’s infrastructure, so despite shelter-in-place orders, we have continued to operate for riders who depend on our service for work, healthcare, and medical care,” Lyles said in the email.

Due to the uncertain and fluctuating nature of the pandemic, the Healthy Transit plan will adapt accordingly to any changes in COVID-19 research or practices, according to its text.

Contact Shylie Ati at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @shylieati.