Rising COVID-19 cases take toll on CapMetro bus routes

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Austin has taken a toll on Capital Metro operations.

CapMetro reports team members have either gotten sick themselves or are using leave to care for loved ones, which has resulted in fewer bus operators.

“I can’t take the bus to work, but I take the bus home from work. I do not want to do that walk twice in one day,” said Julia Rito.

Rito works as a baker at H-E-B on 7th Street. She starts her travel at 4:30 a.m. for her 5 a.m. shift.

Inside CapMetro’s headquarters, workers have been performing a juggling act trying to figure out what to do with Rito’s regular bus route.

CapMetro’s Human Resource Department reports 16 operators are out with the virus, and an additional 26 are out for possible exposure to COVID-19. CapMetro’s Chief Customer Officer Dottie Watkins says the spike in cases also coincides with cedar fever.

“We have some of our staff out when the numbers spike in the community, because of their own underlying health conditions,” said Watkins. “They deem it necessary to not come into work. It has been a difficult challenge, but we are doing everything we can to minimize the impacts on our actual customers.”

Watkins says there’s not one route primarily impacted.

CapMetro is looking at priority routes to make sure they continue going out, but the frequency of some of those routes could change.

“As an example on Route 801 the bus comes every 10 minutes. If we pull an operator, there will be little impact on the route,” said Watkins. “The bus may come every 11 to 12 minutes instead.”

CapMetro says they’re also doing their best to avoid pulling operators from routes that come every 30 minutes to an hour.

“It’s a minor inconvenience. Just takes me longer to get home and get my shoes off,” said Rito.

The best way for customers to know what the moment-to-moment impacts are is to sign up for the Metro Rail Alerts program.

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