Shuron Williams has been a METRO bus operator for more than 12 years. Every morning he wakes up, puts on his uniform and hits the road, transporting passengers comfortably and safely to their desired destinations.

Amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, Shuron Williams, as well as hundreds of bus operators, vehicle maintenance technicians and other transit employees, continue to report to work every day. Like law enforcement and health care, public transportation is classified as an essential service.

At a time when a novel virus is spreading across the country, Williams said that people who ride his bus often have limited travel options and depend on public transportation. Many passengers have vital services they need to get to. Others are essential workers. For Williams, it's up to him and his colleagues to get them where they need to go.

"I feel like our service is a necessity. Many of my riders depend on METRO to get to destinations like doctors' appointments," he said.

To protect both operators and customers, METRO recently implemented a series of public service initiatives. 

“We’re in constant communication with public health and emergency management officials, as well as elected leaders in the region, to make sure that all the things we’re doing are in support of the messaging our leaders are putting out,” said METRO President and CEO Tom Lambert. 

The authority has intensified its already rigorous cleaning schedule, bringing in additional staff to disinfect transit vehicles and transit centers during the middle and at the end of each day.

To promote social distancing, more buses were put in service along heavily traveled local routes to lessen crowding. Riders now board at the back of the bus. Seating was also reduced by approximately 50 percent to allow more space between passengers. When buses reach the limited number of riders, operators activate electronic destination signs advising patrons waiting at stops to "please take the next bus." 

To aid health care workers needing to get to hospitals, METRO added a new Texas Medical Center shuttle service.

Changes were also made to protect elderly and disabled riders who use METROLift. Vans, which can carry a total of four wheelchair passengers, are now limited to two.

Lambert added that the authority has stressed that the public limit travel to only essential trips, per the city and county's "Stay Home, Work Safe" order.

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