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King County Metro and Sound Transit go fare-free amid coronavirus pandemic

Transit agencies around Puget Sound are going fare free or canceling routes during the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state.

Several transit agencies around the Puget Sound region have announced route changes and cancelations amid the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state. King County Metro and Sound Transit announced Friday they will not collect fares and ask rides to enter and exit from the rear, when possible, to help protect drivers. 

King County Metro 

King County Metro is planning to temporarily reduce transit service starting Monday, March 23. The change comes two days after Metro’s prescheduled Spring Service Change is expected to go into effect on Saturday.

Metro said some bus routes will not operate, and “nearly all routes will see individual trip cancelations.”

“These service reductions are in response to significant drops in ridership, and are designed to maintain a resilient and sustainable transit system able to ramp back up when this chapter closes,” King County Metro said on its website.

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Metro’s ridership was 45% less, about 185,000 passengers, on March 12 than a comparable day in 2019.

During the reduced schedule, buses will run less frequently throughout the day and some bus service may also start later in the morning and end earlier in the evening.

Click here for more information.

Sound Transit

Starting Monday, March 23, Sound Transit will reduce its Link light rail and Sounder train service due to the coronavirus. Closures of the Downtown Seattle Link stations will start Friday evening and last through the weekend allowing crews to wrap up the Connect 2020 construction process.

When the stations reopen Monday, Sound Transit will retain the 14-minute train frequencies that have been in place during the construction period. Officials said this change provides enough capacity for current ridership and allows for social distancing.

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Also starting Monday, March 23, Sounder South weekday service will be reduced from 13 round trips to eight round trips. The following northbound trips be canceled: 1502, 1504 and 1506 departures from Lakewood, and the 1516 and 1522 departures from Tacoma. The southbound trips canceled are 1503, 1509, 1517, 1519, and 1523 departures from Seattle.

Sounder North weekday service will be reduced from four round trips to two round trips, with the cancelation of the 1701 and 1705 departures from Everett and the 1700 and 1704 departures from Seattle.

The changes reflect the significant decline in ridership since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in the state, according to officials. 

The ST Express buses operated by Community Transit and Pierce Transit, as well as service on Tacoma Link will remain unchanged for the time being, but officials said that could change in the future based on ridership and staffing impacts.

Click here for more information.

Washington State Ferries 

Washington State Ferries (WSF) has delayed the start of international service to Sidney, British Columbia, due to the coronavirus. Service between Anacortes and B.C. is suspended until at least April 28. WSF said the change does not impact domestic service and it will continue regularly scheduled stops in the San Juan Islands.

WSF said customers who are unable to use tickets or travel passes due to the coronavirus pandemic may be eligible for a refund. Refund requests can be submitted online.

RELATED: Here are the deaths and cases of coronavirus in Washington state

All galleys on WSF vessels are also closed until further notice in response. Food vendors at the Anacortes terminal will also be closed. Vending machines are still available.

Crews will clean vessels before each scheduled departure, including wiping down tables and seats, scrubbing bathrooms, and cleaning all surfaces with a disinfectant.

Click here for more information.

Community Transit 

All Community Transit buses went fare-free Friday. Community Transit provides service in Snohomish County and to and from locations in King County.

Passengers will also now only board and exit through the rear doors of Community Transit buses to help distance drivers and passengers. ADA customers will still be able to use the front door of the bus.

Community Transit said the front 10 feet of all buses will be for bus drivers and ADA customers only.

“These changes will help ensure that our drivers remain safe and healthy and better able to practice social distancing as advised by our public health professionals,” Community Transit said in a blog post.

The changes come after four drivers tested positive for the coronavirus.

Click here for more information.

Skagit Transit 

Skagit Transit said it is not collecting fares and not selling passes as a way to increase social distancing on buses and at pass outlets amid the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state.

Click here for more information.

Whatcom Transportation Authority 

Whatcom Transportation Authority is going fare-free until further notice to allow for social distancing. The agency asked passengers to stay at least six feet away from drivers and other passengers whenever possible.

Click here to learn more.

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