Metro Mobility said Monday it will provide front-line health care workers with free round-the-clock transportation service on a daily basis to and from their workplaces.
The federally mandated transportation bus service for people with disabilities has seen ridership decline by about 80% during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, Metro Mobility provided 2.4 million rides to customers. The new service comes after Metro Transit reduced service during the outbreak to essential trips, making it hard for workers dependent on public transportation to get to and from their jobs.
The new, on-demand service begins immediately, and won’t affect essential service already provided to Metro Mobility customers. Last month, Metro Mobility began picking up groceries and household items for customers in need during the pandemic.
The Metropolitan Council, the regional planning body that runs Metro Mobility, said in a news release the new service will serve solo passengers and “very small” groups of essential health care workers.
The council said the trips will follow state guidelines for physical distancing and will only transport “as many customers as is safe for the vehicle.” Metro Mobility drivers will wipe down interior touch points with disinfectant on vehicles after each trip and buses will be sanitized daily.
Met Council Chair Charlie Zelle said in a statement that health care workers are on the front lines of the pandemic, “providing critical services to those who need them most. Our strengths lie in getting people safely where they need to go, and right now, our health care heroes need protected, reliable transportation.”
To participate, essential health care workers in the seven-county metro area must provide their employee identification badge showing they are employed in a health care facility. Workers need to call the number associated with their home address to schedule a ride, or register online. Trips can be scheduled up to four days in advance, and the council will try to have buses arrive within 20 minutes of the pickup time.
The cost of the service will be covered by the council’s existing budget, although there may be some reimbursement through the federal CARES act.