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Pasco limits bus ridership to 15 people or fewer

Transit agencies in Pinellas and Hillsborough are issuing their own protocols in hopes of preventing the spread of COVID-19.
A man, who preferred not to give his name, puts on a protective mask after boarding a bus from to Bay Pines Veterans Administration from the Grand Central bus station in St. Petersburg to the Florida Tuesday, March 17, 2020. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times]

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Pasco County Public Transportation announced Wednesday it is limiting buses to 15 riders or fewer in hopes of stopping the spread of coronavirus.

Drivers will allow at most 10 to 15 riders at a time, depending on the size of the bus.

The transit agency will transfer buses from under-used routes to its busiest to cover any overflow. As a result, route 18 on Grand Boulevard, 25 on Rowan Road, 31 in Dade City and 41 in Land O’Lakes are suspended until further notice.

“We appreciate your patience as we work to maintain service that is mindful of the well-being of our patrons and team members,” spokesman Brendan Fitterer said.

Related: Many bus riders and drivers don't have the option of practicing social distancing

Transit agencies continue to update protocols in light of the fast-spreading, novel coronavirus.

Pinellas County’s transit agency is letting drivers decide how many riders they’re comfortable with boarding at any given time.

“We recommend to the drivers 10 or less, but if it is 12 or 15, that is okay,” Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority spokeswoman Stephanie Rank said.

If the driver decides the bus is full, he or she must call dispatch to pick up the remaining passengers, Rank said. The bus agency has also suspended fares and is asking riders to board in the back of the bus in order to eliminate crowding by the farebox, which is a common touch-point and surface where the virus could spread.

Related: You can ride free on public buses in Pinellas to avoid crowding at farebox

Transit officials in Hillsborough have not limited ridership, but they are encouraging riders to practice social distancing and to stagger seating, spokeswoman Carson Chambers said.

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority continues to operate normal service with staff cleaning and disinfecting buses, bathrooms and offices on a more frequent schedule.

The bus agency is asking passengers to ride the bus for essential trips only, to maintain distance from other riders and stay home if they are sick.

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