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TAMPA — People in Hillsborough County who rely on the bus to get to the grocery store or doctor’s office will have fewer options starting Wednesday, as the county’s transit agency is cutting service in response to COVID-19.
The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority was the latest transit agency in Tampa Bay to adjust service Monday in light of safer-at-home orders, social distancing and business closures caused by the fast-spreading coronavirus.
Starting Wednesday, the county’s buses and vans will run on a reduced Sunday schedule, which typically mean shorter hours and longer waits between buses. The decision “is a reflection of closures along routes, reduced demand for service, and support of the Hillsborough County ‘Safer-at-Home’ order due to COVID-19,” the transit agency said in a statement.
The move comes a week and a half after the agency reduced service on the TECO Line Streetcar in downtown Tampa and Ybor City, citing similar reasons. The streetcar schedule will be adjusted further, stopping service at 9 p.m. daily.
Transit officials are encouraging riders to only take the bus for “essential or emergency purposes.” Riders are still required to pay the standard fare. Youth 18 and under can ride for free.
Some routes don’t typically run on Sundays and will operate as normal. The 275LX New Tampa Limited Express will not change. Routes 20X Pasco/Lutz Express, 24LX FishHawk/South Tampa Express, 25LX Bloomingdale/South Tampa Express and Route 31 in South Hillsborough County will run their standard weekday schedule with no weekend service.
Route 60LX Cross County Limited Express and 360LX Brandon/South Tampa Limited Express will operate a regular weekday service and a limited Sunday schedule on the weekends. Route 75LX South County Shopper will not run at all.
HARTPlus, which provides point-to-point service for individuals with disabilities and others with special needs, will suspend all repeating appointments. Customers must book their trips on demand. The transit agency is asking customers to only book trips that are essential, and to call their destination to confirm they are open before boarding, as many community facilities and events have been canceled or closed.
Transit agency employees, including office staff such as planners, were still required to come into the office daily for work as of Monday unless they were using a sick day. Transportation systems qualify as part of the Department of Homeland Security’s “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers" network.
Starting Wednesday, managers have the option of allowing employees alternative work schedules, including flexible schedules and remote working.
The transit agency said in a statement that its “number one priority is the health of our employees and customers.”
The agency implemented an enhanced disinfection regime to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including wiping down frequent touch-points like vehicle entryways, steering wheels and customer seat backs. All agency facilities’ surfaces, door knobs, sinks, faucets, hand rails and other common areas are also being disinfected, the statement said.
“We ask customers to practice good hygiene and social distancing and for those that may be sick, to look at other commuting options, such as telecommunication,” the agency statement said. “If you do not have to travel, please don’t.”
All public meetings for the agency are canceled through April 13.
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