The Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District is actively responding to the possibility of the spread of COVID-19 virus by taking additional precautions to protect bus riders and the MTD workforce, including extra cleaning, SBMTD announced Wednesday.
“We are doing additional disinfecting of the bus fleet that’s taking place nightly. Every bus that goes out during the day, when it comes in in the evening we’re using a hospital-grade disinfectant on all the high-touch surfaces,” said Hillary Blackerby, spokesperson for SBMTD.
The SBMTD has a fleet of 114 buses that service 24 standard routes with 230 employees.
Each night a crew from an outside janitorial service wipes down surfaces like door handles, seat-back handles, grab bars, and the driver area.
SBMTD is also cleaning its facilities and educating its staff on basic coronavirus tips, making sure employees know MTD is monitoring the situation, said Ms. Blackerby.
“We’ve participated in several industry wide webinars. We have a team of managers following the situation very closely and meeting pretty much on a constant basis,” Ms. Blackerby told the News-Press.
These are the steps that SBMTD has taken so far, but along with the rest of the transit industry, they are closely following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, said Ms. Blackerby.
“We are certainly ready if the professionals at the CDC or Public Health gives us any other direction or guidance. We’re also in touch with County Public Health should they need anything from us or have anything for us. We’re all very well connected and paying close attention to what’s going on with the situation,” said Ms. Blackerby.
For now, all of SBMTD bus services are currently running at a normal schedule. Construction on the downtown transit center will also continue as normal.
As a special district and agency, SBMTD makes their own decisions with regards to service and is not governed by county or city governments.
Currently there are no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Santa Barbara County.
“We obviously know that that could change, so we’re really leaving it up to the professionals to give their recommendations and we will make decisions based on that guidance,” Ms. Blackerby told the News-Press.
Although they are prepared to suspend services, the SBMTD has not received that recommendation.
“The Public Health Department I think understands the situation when it comes to what public transit means for folks being able to get around,” said Ms. Blackerby.
“We’re currently running. We’re going to be running until such time we get information that makes us take a look at if we need to adjust service levels.”
Although ridership for SBMTD was up in January and February, those numbers are calculated monthly, meaning they will have to wait until the end of March to know if ridership has been impacted.
With UCSB’s announcement that classes will be going online for the rest of the quarter, SBMTD expects ridership to be affected at least in that area, Ms. Blackerby told the News-Press.
“At this point we’re maintaining a normal schedule. We found out about this (Tuesday) with everyone else, so we’ll take a look at what’s going out there and what’s necessary. If it gets to the point where we see all the service is not necessary we may make some changes,” said Ms. Blackerby.
“Certainly people are still living out there and working on campus and all that stuff, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that ridership is taking a hit at this point.”
SBMTD typically reduces services in Isla Vista as the school year ends.
“We’re in touch with all the institutions, City College and UCSB. If anything changes we have good lines of communication,” said Ms. Blackerby.