COVID-19 cuts Transit ridership

PORT ANGELES — Clallam Transit ridership was down nearly 50 percent last month because of COVID-19, General Manager Kevin Gallacci said.

The public transportation agency provided 30,732 fixed route trips last month compared to 58,113 in June 2019, a 47.1 percent decrease, according to a monthly operations report.

“We would be carrying maybe up to 2,500 in a day on fixed route, but we’re running about 1,000 per day,” Gallacci said in a Thursday interview.

“The positive of that is that’s allowing us to be able to allow social distancing on the buses, because we do have capacity limits on the buses.”

Riders are required to wear face coverings and maintain at least 6-feet of physical distancing.

Protection shields have been installed around bus drivers and drivers are required to wear masks.

“We are doing extra disinfecting and we are providing hand sanitizers and things like that,” Gallacci said.

”We’re also providing masks for the public that don’t have masks to try to encourage that use.

“We always want our ridership to be higher,” Gallacci added. “But right now, I’m OK with around 1,000 trips a day.”

Clallam Transit will receive federal reimbursement through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide transportation for essential workers and those who need to make essential trips.

“That’s really our focus right now,” Gallacci said.

The CARES Act funding will help offset the expected loss of sales tax revenue and fares and cover additional costs related to the coronavirus pandemic, Gallacci said.

The No. 123 Strait Shot route to Bainbridge Island was suspended for COVID-19 precautions in April and May. The Strait Shot has returned to service with 279 trips logged in June, according to the operations report.

“The numbers have been pretty low on that run, which may lead me to believe that most of those trips may be necessary for medical appointments in Seattle,” Gallacci said.

Overall fixed route ridership, while significantly behind 2019 ridership, was up 32.6 percent from May to June, Operations Manager Jim Fetzer said in a memo to the Transit board.

Gallacci said he met with Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Unthank to discuss safety precautions and capacity limitations prior to resuming the Strait Shot, which is Transit’s only out-of-county route.

“To ensure employee and customer safety, staff continues to maintain an intensive cleaning and disinfecting of buses and facilities throughout the day,” Fetzer said in a board memo.

Clallam County is in Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Safe Start” reopening plan.

The agency will continue to comply with the governor’s orders and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and FTA, Gallacci said.

“We’re more or less directed to minimize capacities, and this is becoming a challenge with transits all over the state,” Gallacci said in a telephone interview.

“We will continue our safeguards to protect our operators and customers.

“Phase 3 really isn’t going to change a whole lot with the safety precautions that Transit’s doing.”

In non COVID-19-related news, Clallam Transit has opened a public comment period on its draft 2020-20205 Transit Development Plan.

The draft is available on the Clallam Transit website, www.clallamtransit.com.

A public hearing on the plan is scheduled for Aug. 26.

Clallam Transit has placed into service 10 new buses that it ordered last year with grant funding. High mileage buses were sold as surplus.

Gallacci said the new coaches will increase system reliability, lower operations costs and have low emissions.

“Everybody’s pretty excited about it,” Gallacci said.

”The customers seem to appreciate it. We’ve added air conditioning to these, so they have a little bit better controlled environment for folks.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

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