Updated March 24, 2020 - 7:46 pm
The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada is moving its residential routes to a Sunday schedule beginning Wednesday, a few days ahead of schedule due to driver shortages and decreased demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The transit system will operate on a Sunday schedule seven days a week until further notice, the RTC said in a news release. It originally had planned to wait until Sunday to begin the new schedule.
“Due to operational constraints and reduced public transit demand, the RTC will adjust residential transit service beginning tomorrow, March 25, rather than Sunday, March 29, as previously announced,” the news release stated.
A Sunday schedule varies route-to-route but typically offers less frequency to reflect lower ridership and less traffic congestion.
A Sunday schedule had to be used unexpectedly Tuesday, as operator MV Transportation had an influx of callouts by bus operators, according to Francis Julien, RTC deputy CEO. Routes driven by the RTC’s other driver contractor, Keolis, were on a normal schedule.
The RTC sent out emails and alerts on its social channels shortly before 7:30 a.m. Wednesday telling riders that 23 of 35 residential routes would be operating on a Sunday schedule.
“I think they had 55 (operator) call offs today,” said John Foster, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1637. “The call offs were so bad today at MV they had to revert to a Sunday schedule because they didn’t have enough people to fill the line.”
The majority of the callouts were tied to bus operators who were concerned with the novel coronavirus, Foster said.
On Monday, an employee of MV Transportation tested positive for COVID-19. The employee reported feeling ill Thursday and was immediately sent home for self-isolation, according to MV Transportation. The patient subsequently tested positive for the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
The decision to bump up the Sunday schedule date came down to eliminating confusion among transit riders on whether their route was operating on a Sunday schedule or not, Julien said.
In total there are 39 RTC routes with service on the Westcliff Airport Express (WAX) and Centennial Express (CX) service suspended and the Las Vegas Strip routes already reduced to 50 percent.
The RTC is also urging transit riders to comply with recommended social distancing precautions in an effort to promote people keeping at least 6 feet of space between each other.
The RTC is also reducing the operating hours of its call center. It will be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., instead of 6 a.m. to 8 p.m, starting Sunday.
Aside from call centers, customers can also submit comments and/or questions via the RTC’s “Contact Us” webpage 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Hours of operation will also be reduced at the Bonneville Transit Center downtown, going from the 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. hours of operation for the sales booth, to 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.