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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

Metro Changing Service Hours, Offering Free Fares During COVID-19 Pandemic

Sarah Ramsey

Metro is adjusting bus service to meet a decrease in ridership caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Ridership dropped about 30% in one week and Express and Access rides are down upwards of 80%. But people are still riding and need those services to get to essential jobs or services.

Starting Sunday, Metro will operate weekdays on a modified Saturday schedule. Access service won't change and Sunday routes will operate as normal.

"Any Express route that has an underlying local route will not run," says CEO Darryl Haley. "Local routes that do not normally operate on the weekend will operate under this modified plan on the Saturday schedule."

Fares will also be free during the pandemic. SORTA, the board that oversees Metro, made the changes Wednesday. They will be reviewed regularly. 

Haley says Metro is working with the union on staffing.

"Most of the runs will be eight hours or less than eight hours so there won't be very much if any overtime during this period. We'll spread the operators out to make sure that we use as many of the operators as we can to cover these particular routes and have spares in case people do get sick or they have issues with childcare or whatnot to make sure that we deliver to the community."

Metro is using chlorinated sanitizing products and an electrostatic spraying system to sanitize buses. It has also parked all articulated buses - to save money because of decrease in demand - and those without back doors so that people can enter and exit with more social distancing.

Metro is taking a financial hit. The projected loss from Cincinnati Public Schools routes alone is $1.5 million if they don't reopen for the remainder of this school year. The economic slowdown will also take a toll on the system's earnings tax revenues.

"I assume that what we'll do is reach out to the city (of Cincinnati) - and I've talked to several of the city council members - about using the $5 million they hold in reserve to fill that shortfall we're going to have in the earnings tax over the next few months," Haley told board members.

Cincinnati Streetcar

The Cincinnati Bell Connector, which is no longer managed by Metro, is operating on a reduced schedule.

Hours are:

  • Monday - Friday: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Saturday and Sunday: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.


In Northern Kentucky, TANK is also running on a modified schedule. The system is utilizing rear boarding and fares are free during the pandemic.

"Until further notice, TANK will be operating a reduced 'Sunday Plus' schedule," the transit authority says.

You can find the schedule here.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.