COTA has suspended fares for passengers for the extent of the coronavirus outbreak, while requesting customers limit all non-essential bus travel.
Examples of essential travel include: obtaining necessary services or supplies, going to and from work, activities necessary for health and safety, to care for elderly minors or other vulnerable persons, to schools for meals or distance learning services, or if required by law enforcement or court order.
The transit authority also announced Thursday it's adjusting some of its routes to accommodate residents still needing transportation.
“By suspending fares, we’re allowing people to board the rear of the bus, allowing that process of social distancing,” says COTA spokesman Jeff Pullin.
Pullin says it is important that riders and drivers maintain space between each other to prevent the spread of COVID 19.
“This allows everybody to go immediately in, find their seat,” Pullin says. “They don’t have to come in contact with others. And other operators don’t come in contact with the hundreds of other people they typically come in contact with every day.”
COTA ridership is down this week about 35%. It normally can reach up to 65,000 trips a day.
Pullin says bus routes will change regularly during the outbreak.
“We make adjustments on a daily basis,” Pullin says. “So currently, all of our express routes, which are about 13 routes that come from the suburbs, we’ve reduced them to at least one trip in the morning and one trip in the evening.”
COTA for now has suspended the Night Owl and AirConnect lines.
“It allows us to take the buses from those regular trips and move them to areas of town, where we still do have a lot of people that require and need our service, and we’re able to put more buses on those lines to allow people to spread out," he says.
The Ohio Department of Health makes the following recommendations to protect yourself from illness:
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; dry hands with a clean towel or air dry hands.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable.
- Cover your mouth with a tissue or sleeve when sneezing or coughing. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick.
Ohio's coronavirus call center is open to answer questions from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. The hotline number is 1-833-4-ASK-ODH or 1-833-427-5634. More information is available at coronavirus.ohio.gov.