TriMet will continue providing transit service during the COVID-19 crisis, but is planning service changes because of ridership declines caused by people staying at home and worried about being exposed to others in confined spaces.

According to TriMet, the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency considers mass transit to be a critical infrastructure function and mass transit workers to be essential critical infrastructure workers. Follow the statewide Stay at Home order issued by Oregon Gov. Brown on Monday, TriMet is asking people to only take transit if necessary.

"By avoiding unnecessary trips, people help make space for the medical staff, first responders and other essential staff that serve the community and count on TriMet to get where they need to go. Those who must ride during this time should maintain six feet of distance from other riders and the operator. We appreciate everyone's help, as it takes all of us to flatten the curve and save lives," TriMet said after Brown issued her order on March 23.

Even before Brown issued her order, TriMet said ridership is projected to be down by more than 45% last week over February's average. Brown's order is expected to decrease ridership even more, TriMet said.

In response, TriMet is preparing to reduce service in the near future.

"While TriMet has been able to maintain service levels, we are making plans to reduce service that we expect to announce later this week. Riders should always check trimet.org/alerts before they head out. We are also posting updates at trimet.org/health," TriMet said.

TriMet is also encouraging riders to stay six feet apart, as required by Brown's order.

"TriMet will continue to run as public transit is considered an essential service, even during a time of crisis. As more restrictions are placed on the daily lives of those in our area and more people follow the stay-at-home direction, we will continue to see fewer and fewer riders using TriMet's buses and trains. However, there are nurses and doctors, social service workers, child care workers, grocery store employees, first responders, transit employees and others who remain in critical jobs. Many of those rely on transit to get them where they need to go to help people, protect our community and keep the essential services of the community going," the agency continued.

This article was originally published by Pamplin Media Group, one of more than a dozen news organizations throughout the state sharing their coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak to help inform Oregonians about this evolving health issue.

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