© 2022 WKSU
Public Radio News for Northeast Ohio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

Metro RTA Cutting Some Service in Akron; Pandemic Affecting Canton, Cleveland, Youngstown Transit

photo of METRO RTA shuttle
Metro RTA will be cutting some service in Akron starting today. Greater Cleveland RTA is slated to cut 15 percent of service this coming Sunday. And in Youngstown, all service was cut over the weekend except the Countywide door to door service.

Akron’s mass transit system is reducing service in response to the coronavirus pandemic – which is also impacting ridership in Canton and Cleveland.

Metro RTA will be reducing the number of buses on some routes in Akron starting today. Saturdays will be unchanged, but Sunday service will be eliminated.

Executive Director Dawn Distler says, since the pandemic started, her staff has been keeping buses fueled up, operating, and extra clean. But now, they’re becoming short-staffed due to coronavirus.

“What we’re finding now is that we do have some bus operators who are no longer able to come to work because of different challenges that they have.”

So Distler says she’s reluctantly making cuts to service.

“Rather than try to provide the service and cut things up each day and people not know what’s going on we have decided to go to a reduced service which is much like our ‘Thanksgiving Friday’ or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day schedule.

"Most of the routes are still going to be running; not all of them, but most of them," she said. What will be impacted is how frequently routes run and what times. "The later trips will not run anymore and some of the earlier trips are not in the mix. But frequency is the thing that’s affected the most."

Distler says that if certain routes get crowded, they may send out additional "chaser" buses to pick up the slack.

SARTA tries to stay the course
They’re asking people only to go out for essential trips, and that’s echoed by her counterpart at SARTA, Kirt Conrad, who is also seeing employee concerns in Canton.

"A lot of our employees have concerns. There’s fear; I think everybody has fear. The one thing we’re trying to do is, if somebody has a need, we’re trying to work with them because this is such an unusual time. Trying to balance the needs of the community and my own employees. It’s a tough thing to do."

Conrad says he’s trying not to cut service given the number of riders they have heading to critical medical appointments, such as dialysis or obstetrician visits, as well as residents who need to patronize food pantries

“We may not be first responders, but if we’re not operating the community feels the impact.”

SARTA ridership is down about 50 percent. Metro RTA ridership is down about 39 percent, and Distler expects it to stay there – unless new orders from Gov. Mike DeWine further require people to stay indoors.

GCRTA cuts in Cleveland
Greater Cleveland RTA bus and rail service will be cut by 15 percent this coming Sunday, April 12, due to falling ridership. Most of the changes affect weekday schedules.

WRTA also moving ahead with cuts
The Western Reserve Transit Authority (WRTA), which serves Mahoning and Trumbull Counties, is also cutting service today. All fixed routes stopped running on Saturday. Countywide Service, or enhanced door-to-door service, for seniors, workers and disabled individuals will continue. Countywide is only for essential trips, such as to work, medical appointments or shopping for necessities within the counties. It's available from 6:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. in Mahoning County Monday through Saturday.

Kabir Bhatia joined WKSU as a Reporter/Producer and weekend host in 2010. While a Kent State student, Bhatia served as a WKSU student assistant, working in the newsroom and for production.