PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - The Port Authority said riders are seeing delays after more than two dozen employees tested positive for COVID-19 and one died in just three days.
The Port Authority is asking riders for patience, saying the surge driven by the more contagious Omicron variant has created delays and longer-than-normal wait times. They're being forced to decrease trips until more drivers can get back behind the wheel.
Riders might need to bundle up even more than usual as the Omicron variant is taking a toll on the Port Authority and driving wait times up. Between 100 and 200 bus and light rail trips started going out of service daily this week because of a lack of operators.
"The wait times are definitely longer," said rider Phillip Clayton.
Since Jan. 1, the Port Authority said 28 employees have tested positive for COVID-19. In December, 84 employees tested positive.
"We are trying to pull trips that are on routes that are more frequent than those that are less frequent. So, we might pull a trip on a route that comes every 10 or 15 minutes but keep those trips in if a route only comes every 40 minutes or an hour," said Adam Brandolph, a spokesperson for the Port Authority.
Brandolph said it's been a difficult time. An employee who was a bus operator for 5 years died over the weekend. It's the seventh Port Authority death.
"It shouldn't be any. We don't like to see any employees falling ill, much less passing away from this virus and words can't really express how we feel, it's awful, we send our sympathies to his family, friends, coworkers," Brandolph said.
He expects the staff shortage to continue until the spread of COVID-19 in Allegheny County slows down, so don't be surprised if a trip goes out of service. The Port Authority provides about 6,200 trips daily so about 4 percent of their trips are out of service now.
"It's a real inconvenience to everybody that rides the bus because it's people have to totally re-do their schedules so they can get to work earlier. Sometimes the buses don't even show up," said Clayton.
"That's really unfortunate. I think a lot of people in this city really rely on the public transportation and so I hope those issues will get resolved so people can get to where they need to be more quickly," said Kira Geary, who rides the bus to work every day.
Brandolph said 74 percent of Port Authority employees are vaccinated and so far employees are testing positive regardless of vaccination status.
"We wanted to be proactive and make sure they know it might be a little longer, but there's a reason why and to have a little patience, a little understanding," Brandolph said.
The Port Authority said riders should be patient and allow for extra travel time. If your specific trip is impacted, the Port Authority encourages you to call customer service at 412-442-2000, message them on Twitter or live chat online. Riders can check the status of specific trips on Port Authority's Twitter alert page.
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