SAVANNAH Ga. (WSAV) – Chatham Area Transit (CAT) says ridership is down but it is stepping up to protect people who still use and work on public transit.
At an emergency virtual meeting last month, board members voted to make two changes, including suspending fares. CAT has since announced additional service reductions.
Effective Monday, April 13, CAT will implement new hours, which also apply to CAT Mobility services:
- 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday
- 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays
A modified schedule is already in place but additional adjustments will take place on Monday. View the upcoming modified schedules here.
CAT says the decision was made to help people and families struggling during the international pandemic. It was also made in an effort to protect CAT operators.
“We will be able to open the rear doors on our buses and people can enter through the rear doors,” said Patricia Harris-Morehead, CAT’s Chief Strategy Officer. “They can get to their seats faster. And they won’t have to pass by the operator sitting at the front of the bus.”
Customers with disabilities can use the front door’s kneeling function or wheel chair ramp.
Still, CAT urges customers to only use the services for essential trips to work, medical appointments or grocery shopping.
In addition, customers are encouraged to wear face masks or cloth face coverings while riding, as is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We are asking the public to join us in helping to keep customers and employees safe as we continue to provide services to people who need them,” said Michael J. Brown, interim CEO/Executive Director in a statement. “We all must do our part to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
The decision, according to CAT, will cost more than $71 thousand dollars per week. CAT says fares make up just 3 percent of their annual budget.
Harris-Morehead says a recent, 50 percent drop in ridership allows CAT to reduce weekday services so drastically. She says CAT is working hard to prevent layoffs, despite the reduction in service.
“Our interim CEO assured us we are going to be able to avoid layoffs at this time and we will do our absolute best to make sure our employees get paid,” she said.
CAT says federal agencies may reimburse them for buying extra disinfectants for their employees. They are keeping a detailed record of expenses, including large purchases of hand-sanitizer, masks, and gloves.
CAT assured the public it is cleaning facilities, shelters, and busses every night.
“We have purchased some cleaning supplies, where in addition to wiping down some of those common handled materials or places on the bus, you can [also] spray the bus, leave it overnight, and that also helps,” said Harris-Morehead.
Emergency measures will be in effect until April 28, when board members meet again at a regularly scheduled meeting to consider whether to continue reduced services and waived fares.
You can call CAT’s customer service line with specific questions. The number to call is (912) 233-5767 from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday-Friday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Editor’s note: This story was originally published March 24 and has since been updated