Updated: February 22, 2021 02:51 PM
Created: February 22, 2021 12:41 PM
Facing growing demand for Metro Mobility service, the Metropolitan Council will introduce fares beginning March 1 for essential health care workers who use the service.
For a majority of the pandemic, dating back to April 2020, Metro Mobility has offered free rides to those who work in health care. The council says the decision to charge fares for health care workers signals a return to more normal operations, which entails transportation service to certified riders with disabilities.
The free rides were offered at a time when Metro Transit service was less available. The Metropolitan Council operates both services.
“It has been a privilege to support the region’s COVID-19 response and ensure our valued health care workers have safe and stress-free rides to and from work, 24/7,” said Nick Thompson, director of Metropolitan Transportation Services. "Helping them also helped us. The pandemic turned transit service on its head. We had to adapt and reinvent the service to better the needs of people at the time."
Thompson said providing health care workers with free door-to-door service as regular ridership declined helped the council preserve jobs and support the economy during challenging times. But free rides to health care workers was always a temporary arrangement.
“Metro Mobility ridership has returned to about half of what it was before COVID-19. With health care workers getting vaccinated and demand for Metro Mobility growing, it’s a good time to begin the transition to Metro Mobility’s core business and ensure there is capacity on our vehicles for paying customers," he said in a statement.
Starting March 1, fares for health care workers will match what Metro Mobility customers pay: $3.50 off peak and $4.50 for peak travel times, plus a $.75 surcharge if the trip is over 15 miles. The number of customers on board each vehicle continues to be restricted to ensure adequate social distancing.
Health care workers may also use regular-route service for essential trips, including Metro Transit, the region's largest provider of transit service. Metro Transit is making service adjustments, such as increased frequency on its routes, to support ridership demands.
Transit riders are reminded of safety measures, including social distancing, that limit capacity on Metro Transit vehicles to 10 passengers on 40-foot vehicles and 15 passengers on 60-foot vehicles. Federal law requires customers to wear masks while waiting for or on public transit. Customers must keep a safe distance from other customers and drivers, wash hands frequently or use hand sanitizer, and stay home in case of illness, according to the council.
Copyright 2021 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company