Beginning March 23, Island Transit will remove many of its Whidbey Island routes in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Island Transit is not planning to completely shut down its service, however.
“Even in this outbreak, some people still need to travel for essential purposes,” Island Transit Board Chairwoman Jackie Henderson said in a press release. “It might be to the ferry, to their job on the island, to the store to get some groceries, or to dialysis. It’s important their transit system can take them there.”
Routes that remain in service on Whidbey Island are Route 1S and 1N, back and forth from Oak Harbor to Coupeville Ferry/Clinton Ferry, Route 411W, back and forth from Oak Harbor to March’s Pointt, Route 22, the Oak Harbor City Shuttle, Route 60, back and forth from Clinton to Bayview via Langley, and the NASWI Commuter.
It is unclear how long the change will remain in effect. “We will do this until things get better or things change for the worse,” said Island Transit Director Todd Morrow.
According to the press release, the ridership for Island County dropped by about 26 percent when compared to the same time last year.
With the reduction in riders, Morrow said they currently do not need to limit how many ride a bus. “Right now ridership is so low it’s not an issue,” he said.
He said despite the cutback in service, Island Transit is currently still employing the same number of coach drivers. He wants to avoid laying people off.
“If you dismantle your workforce, it would be hard to restart,” he said. Island Transit would need to rehire and retrain its workforce when the situation improved.
The excess drivers are working as reserves, Morrow said. They are substituting for other drivers and cleaning the buses.
According to the press release, Island Transit is working with public health authorities to make the bus trips as safe as possible for riders and employees.
The agency is using disinfectant on grab bars, pull cords, poles and other high-touch, hard surfaces on its buses. Passenger seats, the windows, the mirrors and the floor are cleaned daily.
Island Transit has also added signs on its buses to educate riders in proper hygiene etiquette and social distancing practices.
Morrow said that the drivers are also given gloves, masks, hand sanitizer and wipes in case they need to clean in between stops.
• To see the schedule changes visit islandtransit.org