A Rapid bus
An MTS Rapid bus. Courtesy San Diego MTS

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System on Monday announced a 25% cutback in service beginning April 13, but pledged to keep some level of service on all routes.

MTS CEO Paul Jablonski said the changes are designed to maintain access to essential locations like hospitals, supermarkets and government offices during a period of significantly lower ridership while minimizing potential coronavirus exposure by drivers.

“We’re seeing about a 65% to 70% ridership loss, a little bit more on buses than on trains,” said Jablonski. “But that means we’re still carrying 100,000 people a day.”

He said 70% of bus routes will have reduced frequency. On the trolley, the Orange and Green lines will maintain current weekday schedules, but the Blue Line, where service was recently increased, will revert to the weekday schedule in effect at the beginning of the year.

In order to protect drivers, the transit system is instituting rear-door boarding on buses, with no cash payments accepted.

Jablonski said reduced service will help keep the MTS workforce healthy so that frequency can be quickly resumed when the health crisis abates.

“We are still very concerned about the driver behind the wheel,” Jablonski said. “All these people need to stay healthy.”

So far, he said, only one transit worker has tested positive for coronavirus. The patient is a minibus driver who developed symptoms several days after his last trip.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who chairs the agency, said the transit system must continue operating because many residents depend upon it for essential transportation. But he noted that the lower ridership is an indication that people are abiding by the stay-at-home orders.

“This is the only time in my life that I will tell you that a reduction in transit is a good thing,” he said.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.