Metro Transit to limit bus ridership during COVID-19 outbreak

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that Metro Transit will limit the number of riders who can board buses during the COVID-19 outbreak. The new policy is an admission, if not an overt one, that it is difficult to adhere to social distancing guidelines when buses are full. The article reads:

Metro Transit announced new steps on Wednesday to promote social distancing on its buses, including a suggestion that passengers wear a mask or face covering while aboard.

In addition, Metro Transit said only 10 passengers will be permitted on 40-foot buses, and 15 on 60-foot buses.

If a bus is full, its overhead display will say “Next Bus Please” to notify waiting customers that they should wait for the next bus, according to the new guidelines. As soon as enough passengers leave the bus, the sign will be turned off and boarding can resume, the transit agency said.

To help slow the spread of the virus, Metro Transit is encouraging people to only take essential trips, such as rides to work for essential workers, trips to the grocery store, or trips to get medical attention. These advisories, along with reducing the service schedule for buses and light rail, have led to sharp decline in ridership, as you can see in the graph below.

Transit supporters often advocate for a whole host of policies that make it more difficult to own and operate personal transportation in Minneapolis and St. Paul. These policies often include “road diets,” or intentionally making congestion worse to encourage people to seek other means of travel. But these policies simply serve to increase congestion, result in longer commutes, and potentially expose the general population to more contagions.

These policies, like banning plastic bags, may sound good for the environment, but in reality they actually end up making the environment less safe for people.