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BART Sees Dip In Ridership Amid Coronavirus Concerns

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- Fear of spreading the novel coronavirus are suspected of causing a dip in ridership for at least one Bay Area transit agency, according to data released Tuesday by BART.

According to a spokesman for the agency, BART ridership from March 2 to 5 was down 8 percent compared to ridership from Feb. 24 to 27.

BART spokesman Jim Allison said officials are mulling how the agency could be affected financially in the coming weeks and months if the risk of contracting the virus increases.

February ridership for the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District is not yet available as the agency tabulates such statistics each month. However, an AC Transit spokesman said the agency has not immediate plans to alter its service due to the hardship it could represent to East Bay residents.

"Although some Bay Area employers have asked their employees to work from home, we know that not all workers can perform their jobs remotely," AC Transit spokesman Robert Lyles said in an emailed statement.

"We know that right now, many East Bay schools remain open and AC Transit bus lines are a primary means of transportation to schools. We also know that we are the primary mode of transportation for the elderly and persons with disabilities," Lyles said.

Caltrain and SamTrans also calculate their ridership data monthly, but the San Mateo County Transit District, which runs SamTrans buses and is represented on the joint-powers board that operates Caltrain, hopes to release preliminary ridership statistics in the next week.

Anecdotally, Caltrain employees have noticed fewer passengers during peak commute hours in recent days, according to a spokesman for the agency.

While Caltrain and SamTrans have not cancelled route service due to the virus, expanded service for large events like San Jose Sharks hockey games, San Francisco Giants baseball games and concerts at Levi's Stadium could be eliminated if events are canceled or public attendance is suspended.

The district is also bracing for a potential decrease in tax revenue from Measures W and A in San Mateo County, which help fund transit services and improvements.

For now, all Caltrain cars and SamTrans buses are being cleaned daily with hospital-grade disinfectant to ward off the virus and other pathogens.

A spokesperson for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment about their ridership.

While concern about the coronavirus' communal spread have heightened as cases continue to pop up in counties around the Bay Area, local transit agencies have taken steps to improve their cleanliness such as disinfecting train cars, buses and transit stations more often and offering personal protective masks and gloves to employees.

Local jurisdictions have echoed state public health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in calling for the cancellation of large public gatherings to keep the virus from spreading.

Several cities and counties have preemptively cancelled their St. Patrick's Day events, public meetings and, in the case of Santa Clara County, the public attendance of Sharks games.

In addition, high schools and colleges around the Bay Area have closed their campuses or canceled in-person classes to prevent the virus' spread.

As of Monday morning, there were 133 cases of coronavirus and one death have been confirmed across the state.

© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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