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Nearly 200 Golden Gate Bus, Ferry Operators Warned Of Possible Layoffs Amid Low COVID-19 Ridership

LARKSPUR (KPIX 5) – Many workers who help run Golden Gate Transit buses and ferries between the North Bay and San Francisco could soon be out of a job, after the agency warned of nearly 200 potential layoffs.

One glance at the ferry terminal parking lot in Larkspur makes it very clear ridership is down, a jaw dropping 97 percent due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

"Today we got on and there was five people on it was just sort of sad, there was nobody riding it," ferry passenger Martine Riggan told KPIX 5.

The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, which operates not only the bridge, but the ferries and Golden Gate buses has sent 60-day layoff notices to 185 employees.

"While bridge traffic has returned to about 65 percent of normal, we are still losing money on the transit operation and have about 30 percent of typical funding for bus and ferry service," said district spokesperson Paolo Cosulich-Schwartz.

Shane Weinstein, president of Amalgamted Transit Union Local 1575 says the layoff notices could not come at a worse time for his members who have been working the frontlines for months.

"People looking at losing their job in 60 days, right before Thanksgiving, with Christmas on their heels, and losing your health benefits during a global health crisis that we've never seen in our time," Weinstein told KPIX 5 during a Zoom interview.

Weinstein said the district has the cash to save jobs, at least until after the holidays.

"There's grant money that can be used, there's emergency fund money that can be used. These layoffs are generational and what is an emergency relief fund there if you're not going to use it during all of this going on at the same time," he said.

The district said it will run out of $51 million in CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act funding in October and are losing money on bus and ferry service due to low ridership.

"Our board deemed keeping those reserves in places and allowing us to maintain the critical infrastructure projects that will save lives was the top priority," said Cosulich-Schwartz.

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