RVTD ridership heavily impacted by COVID-19 pandemic

MEDFORD, Ore. — Virtually all local businesses are feeling the effects of the pandemic, including public transportation.

Rogue Valley Transit District is seeing a major change in ridership. In response, it’s hoping a new discount pass will improve the situation. The pass offers service workers, in food and hospitality industries, a 50% discount.

“Transportation is one of the highest costs for a household, so if this helps someone to be able to get back on their feet, we’re happy to help,” Paige West, RVTD, said.

New COVID-19 safety measures are affecting the amount of riders RVTD buses can hold. A bus that can typically hold 44 riders, is only able to hold 19 to keep the proper distancing.

“Some of our routes are seeing, you know, very low ridership still, but our most popular routes are maxing out,” West said.

Ridership is down across the board with about a 40% decline since March, when the state’s lock down went into effect. Last month, ridership was down 49.5%, compared to June 2019. But since Jackson County started reopening, things are improving. Between May to June of this year, ridership is up almost 35%.

“We’re trying to keep a pulse on what’s going to happen with Rogue Community College, Southern Oregon University, Harry and David,” West said.

Those three organizations, make up roughly 20% of RVTD riders. If they open back up in the fall, RVTD says it needs to re-assess how to provide bus services to more people when space is limited.

“We really don’t anticipate being able to lift these restrictions ourselves until the state has moved into phase 3,” West said.

On the other hand, if the college campuses keep classes remote, RVTD’s numbers would stay low, creating issues into the new year.

RVTD has increased sanitation measures for buses and masks are still required. Routes are running 7 days a week, but two routes, the express route and route 21, are still suspended.

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