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North Bay transit schedules cut under coronavirus isolation order

North Bay transit agencies continue to reduce service based on plummeting demand amid the coronavirus outbreak, with SMART and Golden Gate Transit each cutting back their number of daily routes as commuters transition to working remotely.

Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit has seen a sharp decline in ridership, falling to about 10% of its typical daily counts. Last week, on the county’s second day of its shelter-in-place order, the number of daily passengers on the train dropped to 331, down from more than 3,000 two weeks ago, according to preliminary data provided by SMART.

Weekend service was curtailed earlier this month through at least April 5, and SMART has now temporarily cut two morning southbound routes, at 6:38 a.m. and 9:18 a.m., as well as one morning northbound trip, at 8:14 a.m. The reductions follow suspension of four other trains - the 7:10 a.m. and 4:29 p.m. southbound trains, and the 8:46 a.m. and 6:05 p.m. northbound trains.

To accommodate afternoon service, the rail agency added on Monday one southbound trip, at 1:49 p.m.

“SMART, like all transit agencies, continues to operate. We’re just observing travel patterns and ridership demand and making adjustments accordingly,” said Julia Gonzalez, spokeswoman for SMART. “We have people who need to get to work, as medical professionals, people staffing pharmacies and in-home care providers. So we continue to provide this vital service.”

On Monday, Golden Gate Transit, which operates bus and ferry service, also dropped its number of daily trips. Ridership has fallen by about 85% aboard buses and by almost 90% on ferries, according to an agency spokesman.

The ferry is also no longer operating on the weekends for the time being, and the number of weekday routes between Larkspur - the end of the SMART line - and San Francisco has been cut to eight each direction, down from the usual 20 per weekday.

The four Golden Gate bus routes between Sonoma and Marin counties are operating on reduced schedules, as are Santa Rosa CityBus and Sonoma County Transit buses. Both the county and city bus systems are providing service free of charge to help avoid contact between drivers and passengers.

The Bay Area’s seven state-owned bridges, including the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and Bay Bridge between San Francisco and Oakland, have suspended all cash payments to avoid contact between drivers and toll collectors. Commuters without a FasTrak electronic toll tag are encouraged to continue through the toll plazas and will be billed the normal rate by mail.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin Fixler at kevin.fixler@pressdemocrat.com.

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