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Omicron Impacts Staffing, Service at Bay Area Transit Agencies

HAYWARD (KPIX) -- Public transportation around the Bay Area continues to face shortages during the pandemic. Omicron infections have sent workers home, forcing some agencies to delay service and cancel trips.

"It's hard, it's really hard," said Lisa Regan, a San Leandro resident waiting for an AC Transit bus Friday. "I mean I understand that -- because they're the drivers -- but it's hard on us, it's hard on them."

"I say forget it, I'm not going to wait, I'm going to walk," said Leticia Piper about her frustration on some nights trying to catch a ride home from work. She lives in Hayward and takes AC Transit buses.

BART told KPIX on Friday that 40 employees had tested positive since mid-December. The agency has around 4,000 employees total. Missed shifts by those absences were covered with overtime and standby staff but some trips had to be canceled.

Many factors are contributing to trips that never get completed during the pandemic. A review of data from December says BART achieved 92.4% of service, according to the agency.

"That's all I can really do, just hope it gets better and people come back to work," said Mynor Tejada, a Hayward resident who uses AC Transit and BART.

Around 120 San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency staff have contracted COVID since late last month. Pre-existing worker shortages exacerbated Muni service disruptions, impacting wait times for riders.

"We haven't canceled any routes yet, nothing like that so we're just asking people to be patient with us," said Erica Kato, chief spokesperson for SFTMA.

Golden Gate Transit said six daily trips were canceled this week, which is about three percent of its service.

"Kind of interesting because there are lot of people who have no job," Angela Padilla said about staff shortages while waiting for the bus in Hayward.

VTA has more than 50 workers who are out on COVID-related illnesses but their primary concern remains a shortage in workers that has affected schedules since before the Omicron variant emerged.

"We hope it will help customers plan because we don't see a particular resolution coming in any short-term period," said VTA public information officer Stacey Hendler Ross.

Some of the riders in Hayward on Friday said they had other options to get around the Bay Area if service is delayed or canceled but others explained they were completely dependent on public transportation to commute.

"Hopefully they can hire more people and they can get some more buses out here," Regan said.

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