Amtrak and transit agencies in Texas have changed policies and modified schedules in response to a drastic drop in ridership during the Covid-19 virus pandemic.
While Amtrak still maintains it's Texas service with the Heartland Flyer, Texas Eagle and Sunset Limited cash will no longer be accepted, only credit and debit cards for purchases of tickets and on board services. The passenger rail provider announced that they have increased the frequency of cleaning services on trains and at stations and have increased the quantity of sanitizers and disinfectant wipes available for customers and employees.
Transit agencies such as Dallas Area Rapid Transit have closed all transit center waiting areas, but DART riders can continue to use the outdoor areas for boarding buses and light rail vehicles. On DART buses with rear doors, customers will also be required to board the vehicle through the rear access. DART has aggressively expanded agency-wide cleaning and safety protocols in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The Trinity Railway Express (TRE) is operating a modified weekday schedule while the Saturday schedule currently remains unchanged. In Houston rides on METRO are free and passengers must use the rear door of buses to board and exit buses to limit exposure to drivers and other riders. METRO urges social distance for passengers and employees on the Red, Green and Purple rail lines and bus routes. Trinity Metro made temporary service changes and is offering free rides until the end of next week on bus routes and TEXRail. “This should significantly minimize the amount of contact between operators and customers as well as conductors and riders,” according to the agency in a news release. “Because TRE is a shared service with DART, those passengers will need a ticket to ride.” TEXRail has shifted to an hourly service based on the current schedule, seven days a week. In Austin MetroRail is operating a Monday-Friday daytime schedule, with no Saturday service and no Late-Night trips on Friday. Most MetroBus and MetroRapid services are operating their normal Sunday schedules. Denton County Transportation Authority is limiting service hours and frequency for its A-train and Connect bus services amid the ongoing pandemic. The A-train is now running from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday. Because bus service will end before train service, there will be on-demand services from the downtown Denton, MedPark, Old Town Lewisville and Hebron stations.
A new report released this week by New York’s TransitCenter states that nearly 3 million transit users around the country are labeled “essential workers”, this includes over 600,000 people who work in hospitals, doctors offices, or as home health providers. This highlights the need for the various agencies to maintain a frequent service so the workers have a safe and healthy way to get back and forth. As TransitCenter points out in the report, “with less frequent service, buses and rail lines are more likely to be crowded and therefore unsafe due to the inability to adequately keep a safe distance from others.”