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SORTA Ends Free Ridership At City's Request

Ann Thompson

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority will resume charging Metro and Access riders fares on Sunday.

Less than two weeks ago, the board decided to make ridership free and modify its hours due to the decrease in ridership because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this week, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and SORTA's CEO Darryl Haley announced that the transit agency would reinstate fees to ensure people weren't using public transit to violate stay-at-home orders. City officials cited multiple gatherings, including a party in Over-the-Rhine as the reason.

A SORTA board member and Cincinnati residents have raised concerns about blowing up one incident. 

But SORTA Board Member Rod Hinton says they had good intentions but should follow the city's request. "I just think it’s the responsible thing to do for our operators and our city to be honest with you," he says.

SORTA is urging customers only to ride public transit for essential trips.

"My concern is also the essential workers that need to get to work to keep things going for all of us." Board Member Kathleen Wyenandt said during the meeting, which was streamed on Facebook Live.

Many commenters questioned if the regular schedule will also be reinstated as well.

"To put the regular service back out we would just be running a lot of very empty buses around all day, because our ridership is down today 50%," Board Executive Chair Kraig Keesee says.

A SORTA spokeswoman says they will monitor which routes could benefit from an increase in trips and hours to meet riders' needs.

Metro is installing plexi-glass barriers between the driver area and fare box to ensure operators' safety.

Riders will have to purchase their fare online if they can't make it to Metro's sales office by 4 p.m.