By: Matt Stigall, President Cobb 4 Transit
There’s a lot going on in all of our lives right now and we hope that during all of this, all of you and everyone you know are staying safe and healthy during these crazy unprecedented times. It might seem misguided to talk about transit at a time like this, but we’ve taken our time to assess the situation, get input from local and national experts, and it’s important we make the following things very clear.
- Of upmost importance and the top priority is the safety and health of all transit workers. They should be provided with the necessary protection equipment (masks, gloves, and sanitizer) and every vehicle should be sanitized properly. Social distancing measures should be followed by all transit rider and rear-door loading should be in place to limit close encounters. CobbLinc has done a great job implementing these policies.
- It needs to be very clear-our transit operators working in the front line and the staff members supporting them are essential workers in this economy. They are providing necessary transit for other essential workers as well as essential travel for citizens who do not have a car. Minorities and economically-burdened individuals are at greater risk during this pandemic and maintaining transit access to groceries stores, food supplies, and for essential workers, jobs, is extremely essential at the individual and societal levels. We thank every transit operator and the supporting staff for risking their health to provide the transit we need.
- Yes, ridership is down (around 50%) and it is understandable that some temporary cuts and reorganizing of routes must be done. We support CobbLinc’s consolidation of express routes, temporary suspension of fare collections and the rear-door loading policies put in place. We understand some difficult decisions have been made and we commend the department for acting in the community’s best interest.
- Any cuts to service implemented due to COVID-19 must be temporary and service levels must be restored after the crisis is concluded. We are anticipating some individuals will propose these cuts become permanent and point to both a drop in ridership and a loss in revenues, but any permanent cuts would be misguided and would continue the decline in transit service for our area. CobbLinc has received over $18 million in Federal funding from the CARES Act, which is more than the annual county outlay (around $15 million annually). This funding alleviates budget concerns from either lost fares or increased operating costs.
As I said a few times, CobbLinc must be commended for their leadership and adjustments they have made to make riders, workers, and the public more safe while continuing critical service levels.
You can read the guideline of the CobbLinc response to COVID-19 below. More information about the route changes can be found here: https://www.cobbcounty.org/transportation/cobblinc/announcements