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The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) will temporarily reduce Ride On bus service beginning Sunday, Jan. 16, due to a growing number of employees sick from, or exposed to, COVID-19.

The schedule changes offer considerably more service than the previous pandemic-related cuts, but the system will have fewer trips on about half of its routes while maintaining the same span of service. Overall, service will be reduced by about 9 percent from the current schedule.

The service changes will be revisited in six to eight weeks or once bus operator availability begins to return to normal levels.

“We have not yet fully returned to pre-pandemic bus service levels and hate to pull back,” said Dan Hibbert, MCDOT chief of transit. “These temporary changes will be fairly minimal from where we currently are, but riders need to be able to plan. With these changes, we will be operating at about 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels. We just don’t have the drivers available to maintain our current schedule and be dependable.”

The temporary service change schedule will be released early next week. It will maintain capacity for students and continue the Senior Program Transportation service. The change will suspend the Ride On Flex and extRa bus services. The Flash weekday service will operate on a weekend schedule and will continue to include service to the Food and Drug Administration campus in White Oak. 

“We are doing all we can to ensure consistency within our transit system for our community members who depend on it,” said MCDOT Director Chris Conklin. “It is imperative that riders know what to expect. This service change will provide a more reliable service.”

The surge in COVID-19 caseloads arrived as transit agencies around the region have been struggling to attract operators. Montgomery County is actively recruiting bus operators.

MCDOT requires that bus operators are 21-and-over. It offers paid CDL license training, a competitive benefits package and a fun, supportive atmosphere, with ongoing professional development opportunities. Potential applicants can get more information and apply at bit.ly/3C2fIRl.  Search “Bus” or “operator” under the job search tab.

Ride On will operate under the new reduced schedule for the MLK holiday on Monday, Jan. 17, instead of the typical holiday schedule. Trip planning and real time bus arrival information is available by specific routes at rideon.app/directions. Passengers can view the bus map to see in real-time if a bus is approaching their bus stop.

Ride On bus service remains free for all riders until at least July 2. Protective barriers are still in place for drivers. Bus operators have mandated COVID-19 vaccinations or a weekly test process—as do all County employees.

Bus interiors will continue to be cleaned by the County’s Department of General Services on a nightly basis with hospital-grade disinfectant. Bus filter and ventilation systems are also treated each night with a disinfectant.

All passengers are required to wear face coverings when traveling by public transportation. Riders must continue wearing the covering for the entire time of their trip. All MCDOT buses have a supply of face coverings for those who cannot provide their own.

For the most up-to-date service information, riders should follow @RideOnMCT on Twitter, visit Ride On MCT on Facebook, go to RideOnBus.com.

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