SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – A coalition of Bay Area transit agencies released a joint plan Wednesday to assuage rider fears of contracting COVID-19 and suggesting ways for them to keep healthy as they return to public transit.

The “Riding Together” plan outlines the steps that more than two dozen transit agencies in nine Bay Area counties plan to take to safely welcome riders back, using guidance from the California Department of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

Under the state’s mandate, riders must wear face coverings when using public transit.

Some transit operators will have the capacity to provide face coverings as needed, but they will also have the right to refuse service to someone whose face is uncovered.

Riders will also be encouraged to maintain at least 3 feet of distance from each other, minimize talking and singing while taking public transit and use touchless fare payment methods like Clipper.

Transit stations will be cleaned and disinfected more frequently and modified under the Riding Together plan to prevent closely congregated groups of people, be it in elevators or on station platforms.

Buses and light rail and subway cars will also be ventilated as much as possible to promote the flow of fresh air and prevent the virus’s airborne spread.

“Economic recovery can’t happen without transit,” San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Director of Transportation Jeffrey Tumlin said. “And transit doesn’t work if our passengers and operators don’t feel safe.”

The SFMTA established a 30-member task force to draft the plan, seeking input from paratransit services, county health officials and labor organizations.

The plan also includes employee health and safety standards that transit agencies must follow, including supplying workers with personal protective equipment and implementing a COVID-19 assessment before employees enter a transit facility or operate a vehicle.

Transit agencies will also conduct contact tracing as warranted if an employee tests positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus.

“Our trains, stations, and employees are ready to welcome back riders with reliable and safe service and to win back the confidence of the tens of thousands of people who relied on BART before the pandemic,” BART General Manager Bob Powers said.

BART has implemented similar health and safety guidelines as part of its 15-step plan to entice riders back. BART’s ridership has hovered since March around 10 percent to 20 percent of its pre-pandemic levels.

In total, 27 public transit agencies and providers in Napa, Marin, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Contra Costa, Alameda, San Mateo, Solano and Sonoma counties are participating in the Riding Together plan.

The plan can be found at healthytransitplan.org.

“It has never been more critical for our respective agencies to come together and collaborate with a common goal of preserving safe, reliable public transit for those who need it most,” San Mateo County Transit District General Manager and CEO Jim Hartnett said.

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