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TriMet to alter schedules for buses, trains after ridership drops 47% during coronavirus pandemic

To account for the drop in ridership, TriMet plans to have altered schedules for its buses and trains beginning April 5.

PORTLAND, Ore — TriMet on Friday night provided an extensive update focused on how the tri-county transportation agency will move forward during the COVID-19 pandemic with ridership significantly reduced as people stay home and practice social distancing.

To account for the drop in ridership, TriMet plans to have altered schedules for its buses and trains beginning April 5.

There were 1,003,336 trips taken on TriMet the week of March 15, down from the 1,901,445 average weekly trips in February. That’s a 47% decline and TriMet expects this week will have even fewer riders because of Gov. Kate Brown’s stay-home order, which was issued on Monday.

“As we all work to slow the spread of COVID-19, we’re glad that so many of you are now staying home and off of transit; but this decreased ridership comes at a cost, and we are facing some difficult decisions,” said TriMet general manager Doug Kelsey. “We are working to identify the best path forward for all of us and there will likely be some painful changes in the coming months. But I want you to know that TriMet will not stop fulfilling our essential role providing transportation for our customers and community.”

That significant decrease in ridership, combined with the upcoming changes to service, has resulted in TriMet putting a hiring freeze in place. The agency said with its upcoming service changes, it could function with about 210 fewer full-time operators than it currently employs.

“We are looking at strategies to minimize the impact on operator positions, including reducing overtime built into shifts and possibilities for reassigning operators to other duties. TriMet is not announcing any layoffs at this time,” Kelsey said.

TriMet said it is doing the following things to limit the exposure to COVID-19 and make buses and trains safe for both riders and employees.

  • No longer taking cash on buses. Riders need to pay with a Hop card, physical or virtual.
  • The yellow line on buses will be moved back six feet from operators.
  • Buses, trains and TriMet facilities will continue to be disinfected nightly.

New bus and train schedules will appear on TriMet’s trip planner option beginning Wednesday, April 1. Updated schedules will not be posted online until April 5. You can find out what service changes to expect on your line here.

Here’s an overall look at TriMet’s upcoming changes:

Bus service changes

  • 27 of TriMet’s 85 bus lines, or 32%, will maintain their current weekday service, or close to it.
  • 58 of TriMet’s bus lines, or 68%, will see adjustments.
  • The adjustments were roughly built off TriMet’s current Saturday service schedules, with modifications for lines that currently don’t have Saturday service or that don’t have early or late enough service on Saturdays to accommodate typical work schedules.
  • No line will have more than an hour between buses.
  • Bus lines with weekend service will run on Sunday schedules all weekend long.
  • Buses on the two 24-hour lines – Line 20-Burnside/Stark and Line 57-TV Hwy/Forest Grove – will temporarily not run overnight.
  • Only one bus line – Line 272-PDX Night Bus – will be temporarily suspended. (This bus line runs in the overnight hours when MAX Red Line does not run. With airline travel down dramatically, we will stop running the bus line, but MAX service will continue.)
  • Weekly bus service hours will be reduced by about 21%.

MAX Light Rail service changes

  • All MAX lines will continue to run their full routes.
  • MAX trains on all lines will run every 15 minutes throughout the majority of the weekday. That means TriMet will suspend the added train service that normally runs during the morning and afternoon commutes Monday through Friday.
  • MAX trains will run on Sunday schedules both Saturdays and Sundays.
  • Weekly MAX service hours will be reduced by about 9%.

WES Commuter Rail service changes

  • WES train service will continue to run during both the morning and afternoon weekday commutes.
  • WES trains will run every 45 minutes, instead of every 30 minutes.
  • WES trains will run as single vehicles and not two-car consist.
  • Weekly WES service hours will be reduced by about 37%.

LIFT paratransit service changes

  • LIFT paratransit service is an on-demand service. While TriMet is not making changes to the service, LIFT serves seniors and those with disabilities or health concerns that make it not possible to use our fixed route buses or trains. As many of those riders are in the high-risk group for COVID-19, ridership has dropped about 80% and those continuing to ride LIFT are doing so only for essential trips or to reach life-sustaining services.

Portland Streetcar service changes

  • Portland Streetcar has altered its weekday service to run on weekend schedules, with streetcars running every 20 minutes instead of more often.

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