While Dallas and Tarrant counties have both ordered residents to stay at home in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, both continue to operate public transit systems and Fort Worth is even offering free fares for riders until April 9.
The Dallas Area Rapid Transit Authority (DART) and Trinity Metro in Tarrant County are considered “essential” and operate “for North Texas riders who rely on buses and trains to get to jobs, stores, and medical appointments.”
The county orders define public transportation as “essential critical infrastructure” under the guidelines of the Department of Homeland Security.
DART, Trinity Metro, and Trinity Railway Express (TRE) have modified their schedules to offer fewer trips throughout the day. They are following what would typically be considered a weekend schedule.
Though DART doesn’t have official ridership numbers for March, it acknowledged seeing fewer riders on-board due to the shelter-in-place orders.
Trinity Metro has eliminated fares for its transit system, but DART and TRE have not.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, pointed out in an Inside Texas Politics interview on Sunday that public transportation systems in metropolitan areas are contributing to incidental transmissions because the virus can live on hard surfaces.
Researcher Christopher Mason is currently conducting tests with Twist Bioscience on the NYC subway system to determine the prevalence of COVID-19 on surfaces there.
Transit systems are encouraging riders to leave an open seat between themselves and others, but the transit crews are not monitoring or enforcing the regulations.
The DFW area transit systems have increased the frequency of cleanings of hard surfaces where the virus might survive and be transmitted. DART trains are cleaned each night and also when each train reaches the end of its line.
DART, TRE, TEXRail, and Trinity Metro are using cleaning agents designed to kill the coronavirus to wipe down hard surfaces, like handrails, door buttons, and grab straps.
On the TRE, the train crews have been provided hand sanitizers and gloves. Trinity Metro has also equipped buses and trains with ionizers that are meant to sanitize the air as it is recirculated.
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Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.