Sonoma County bus operators chart uncertain future as pandemic wears on

16 June 2020

Picture Source: BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat

Sonoma County’s bus operators have weathered severe ridership and revenue declines amid the three-month coronavirus shutdown and now confront hard questions about how to restore service as restrictions are eased and more passengers resurface in need of a ride.

That outlook remains murky as the stay-home orders have profoundly altered work and travel patterns, with potentially long-term implications for the Bay Area’s more than two dozen public transit systems. Some are pressing forward with merger talks due to the severity of the financial crisis they face.

Their shared obstacle is no surprise; It remains unclear when ridership might return to pre-COVID levels, with operators grappling with how to convince transit users that buses are clean, safe and reliable ways to get about.

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