Metro Transit is expanding its capacity limits that have been in place since early on in the COVID-19 pandemic.
The agency has been asking people to use public transit only for essential trips and has limited the number of people on buses and trains to 25% of the vehicle's capacity.
But come April 5, Metro Transit will increase the number of passengers on buses and trains to 50% of the vehicle's capacity. The agency cites Gov. Tim Walz's recent loosening of restrictions, believing that as more activity is allowed the demand for transit will increase.
Here's how many people will be allowed on each vehicle:
- Up to 20 passengers allowed on 40-foot buses.
- Up to 30 passengers allowed on 60-foot buses.
- Up to 33 passengers allowed in a Light Rail train car.
"These limits are supported by the Minnesota Department of Health, align with the most recent governor’s orders, and are very similar to those already in place at many other transit agencies across the nation," Metro Transit said Friday, noting its messaging on only using public transit for essential trips "will be discontinued with a request to travel responsibly."
Masks are still required while passengers are waiting for and riding public transportation.
Metro Transit is also encouraging people to continue practicing social distancing, washing their hands, staying home if they're sick and getting the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they can.
"Understandably, this change may create some uncertainty among our riders, some of whom have already expressed concern about crowded vehicles and mask compliance," Metro Transit General Manager Wes Kooistra said in a statement. "We take these concerns seriously and will continue to monitor ridership to understand where and when more service may be needed.
"If resources are available and a sustained need is identified, additional trips and larger vehicles may be assigned to limit overcrowding," Kooistra added.
Kooistra notes that even at 50% capacity, some people will have to wait for the next trip. Bus drivers who reach capacity will display the "next bus please" message on the overhead display when this happens, and operators are asked to explain to waiting passengers when they can expect the next bus.
Metro Transit's COVID-19 website can be found here.