Rock Region METRO is temporarily modifying public transit service beginning Monday, May 11 to stabilize continuity of transit service in response to an increase in front-line employee absences. At this time, to our knowledge, no METRO employees has had or has COVID-19. METRO remains committed to working with the community to maintain vital public transit service during the coronavirus pandemic while taking additional measures to reduce exposure risk to riders and staff members.
On Monday, May 11, service on Route 1 Pulaski Heights, 7 Shorter College, 12 Clinton Center/Airport, 19 Hensley Express and 20 Hanger Hill/College Station will be cut to re-allocate available drivers to high-ridership routes that have been experiencing emergency “redlining” of service for the past few weeks. Route 8 Rodney Parham will have a schedule change and a route pattern adjustment: Service will run between the route’s terminating point at Rainwood Road & Green Mountain Drive and the Midtown Transfer Hub (the stops along Midtown Avenue behind the Midtown Target shopping center) only; riders can transfer to Routes 3 Baptist Medical Center or 5 West Markham to reach downtown from the Midtown Transfer Hub. Click here for the Route 8 schedule for Monday, May 11 moving forward.
Additional service modifications made Friday, March 20 remain in place. Those include the cutting of Routes 17 Mabelvale/Downtown, 25 Pinnacle Mountain Express, 26 Maumelle/Oak Grove Express and 36 Jacksonville/Sherwood Express.
“Tripper buses,” which are simply extra buses that have been added to a route, will remain allocated to high ridership routes to help transport passengers while buses remain capped at a 10-passenger limit to encourage social distancing.
Saturday service modifications made last month will continue, with the caveat that Routes 1, 7, 12, 19 and 20 will not be in operation for Saturday, May 16 and every Saturday after until further notice.
METRO Streetcar service remains cut at this time.
METRO Connect service, the agency’s relatively new on-demand microtransit service, is still in operation, as is METRO Links paratransit service.
“We know service reductions are frustrating for riders,” said Charles D. Frazier, METRO executive director. “Since the pandemic was announced and we made our first bus service reduction March 20, we have continued to try and strike a balance in providing an essential public service to our community while protecting public health. We are taking this step to stabilize the transit service we are providing right now and ensure that it is reliable for riders who are depending on it to get to jobs, grocery stores and vital health appointments. We remain focused on sanitization, safety and service stabilization as we move through this pandemic, and we are hopeful that we will not need to make further service reductions.”
To stay informed and help reduce risk exposure and practice social distancing, METRO encourages riders to follow @rrmetro on social media and look for service alerts before each transit trip at rrmetro.org or in the Service Alerts sub-menu of the free METROtrack smartphone app. Riders can contact METRO directly at email@example.com with questions or concerns.
Response to COVID-19 to Date
It has been a standard practice to sanitize vehicles; offer on-board hand sanitizer stations to riders and hand sanitizer stations at the River Cities Travel Center (the downtown Little Rock local bus station); offer an on-site, full-time janitor at the travel center; and offer METRO drivers and other employees hand sanitizer stations and disposable gloves at each METRO property prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. These measures continue. In addition, METRO:
- Purchased special machines to fog sanitizer product into fleet vehicles nightly and has increased its fleet sanitation schedule, wiping down all high-touch surfaces daily.
- Increased sanitation procedures at each METRO property to reduce the risk of virus exposure for employees.
- Is screening employees with mandatory beginning-of-shift temperature checks.
- Provides and requires all employees to wear face masks in shared spaces, including transit vehicles.
- Limited passengers per bus and paratransit vehicle, is boarding buses at the back, suspended fare collection enforcement, closed its River Cities Travel Center Sales Office and suspended Lost and Found services to encourage social distancing.
- Placed new ion filtration systems on buses. These systems improve indoor air quality by reducing airborne contaminants; oxidizing volatile organic compounds; reducing airborne particulate matter; killing inactivated bacteria, mold and viruses; and enhancing the effectiveness of filtration media and evaporator coils.
- Requires passengers to wear a face covering that fully covers the nose and mouth while riding.
- Maintained public restrooms and introduced portable handwashing stations to riders at the River Cities Travel Center.
- Installed new UVC emitters to air handling equipment on METRO property. These devices inactivate microbial organisms (bacteria, viruses and molds) that can trigger a range of symptoms from watery eyes and headaches to severe allergy and asthma responses. The recirculating air in the HVAC system creates redundancy in exposing microorganisms to UVC, ensuring multiple passes so the light energy is effective against large quantities of airborne microorganisms.