Free but More Limited Bus Service

School Closures Hit Santa Barbara Transport

The city bus is free | Credit: Paul Wellman

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The Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District is offering bus rides free of charge and scaling back on its bus services following the closure of all schools in the county and the increased demand for the public to stay home and away from groups.

Effective March 18, lines that go to S.B. City College and UC Santa Barbara — lines 15X, 16, and 28 — are canceled. All booster services to junior highs and high schools that were canceled on March 16 will remain suspended until further notice as all K-12 schools have closed, too.

“Public transportation across the country has seen a vast drop in ridership over last week, and we’re no exception,” said Hillary Blackerby, planning and marketing manager for MTD. “The number of people riding the bus and walking around out in the community is really low.”

The K-12 schools and colleges accounted for approximately one-third of MTD’s ridership. Blackerby said that the past week’s ridership reflected that percentage. She estimated that on a typical Monday, there are about 24,000 riders. This past Monday there were only about 8,000.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, MTD’s ridership had been on the rise in recent months.

“There will be an impact. There already is an impact,” she said. “But we are not the only agency doing this …  We are seeking the most flexibility possible at this time. After the dust settles [from COVID-19], we will be looking for assistance.”

The transit service is also providing free fares on all fixed bus routes, and passengers who are not elderly and are without disabilities will be required to board from the rear door of the bus to avoid contact with the bus operator and the farebox. Those who are elderly, disabled, or otherwise require the ramp at the front of the bus will be able to do so.

Passengers with questions about affected routes can call (805) 963-3366 for assistance.

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