SAN RAFAEL (CBS SF/BCN) — With COVID-19 cases and hospitalization plunging to new lows, Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District officials began relaxing social distancing requirements Wednesday on all commute rides in Marin County and into San Francisco.
Transit vehicles and ferries will now only need to have 3 feet between passengers instead of 6 feet. But riders will still need to keep their masks on.READ MORE: UPDATE: Cal ISO Extends Flex Alert Into Friday; Bay Area, NorCal Heat Wave May Break Records
The change comes as the agency bus capacity has fallen to less than 50 percent for all rides since the beginning of the pandemic.
“The vast majority of the district’s customers are commuters from the North Bay traveling to jobs in San Francisco, so until we see a broad reopening of offices and businesses in the region, customers are unlikely to return in any significant numbers,” Transit spokesman Paolo Cosulich-Schwartz said in an email.
Golden Gate Transit’s approach throughout the pandemic has been to prioritize the routes used by service workers. The agency suspended about 90 percent of commuter bus services for office workers, which also cut around 50 percent of their bus service.READ MORE: Gas Leak In San Francisco's Inner Richmond Prompts Shelter-In-Place, Evacuations
As more commuters return to in-person work, the agency will bring back more bus and ferry routes in increments.
Robert Betts, director of operations and planning for Marin Transit, said that their changes in capacity are consistent with other reopening strategies in Marin County and are meant in part to accommodate children who depend on public transportation to get to school.
“We’ve seen continued growth in ridership since the end of the statewide shelter in place orders in January and accelerated growth with the return of students to in-class instruction. This continued growth in ridership has led to an increase in passenger pass-ups, impacting access to transit services for student and other riders,” Betts said.MORE NEWS: Oakland's Mills College Looks At Potential Merger With Northeastern University, May Confer Degrees Again
Now, almost all Marin Transit and Golden Gate Ferry routes will have a 50 percent capacity for all riders. The only exceptions for the policy are Routes 101, 72 and 40 on Golden Gate Transit, which go beyond Marin County and San Francisco.