The 69A METRO bus cruises along Soquel Avenue in Santa Cruz on its way from Watsonville. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—The Santa Cruz METRO bus system is maintaining regular schedules during the coronavirus crisis but discussions are now underway, based on the county’s shelter-in-place order Monday, that could lead to limiting some service. 

In addition, the METRO Pacific Station Transit Center lobby and Watsonville Transit Center lobby will be closed through at least April 6. But bus operations at both facilities are expected to continue as normal.

On Monday Alex Clifford, CEO of the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District, warned of potential service cancellations.

“First, we have encouraged all employees to stay home if they do not feel well,” Clifford said. “Our hypersensitivity to this topic may result in a driver or bus shortage.”

Clifford said some employees will have childcare challenges with the Santa Cruz County Office of Education’s March 16-20 closure and may not be able to come to work. 

He also said that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s declaration on Sunday, which included calling for home isolation for anyone 65 or older, might also impact METRO employees.

The county’s order, effective through April 7, called for all “non-essential” services and businesses to close. 

METRO is classified as an “essential” service and is exempt from the order.

“However, this order may result in some employees self-determining that they do not want to come to work,” Clifford said.

This might create a shortage of drivers and other essential employees, resulting in METRO having to cancel some service on some routes.

Clifford offers these bus travel tips:

• Avoid riding the METRO if you are sick

• Reduce your use of METRO to essential trips only, such as doctor’s appointments and work.

• While onboard a bus, to the greatest extent possible, observe “social distancing” (at least 6’ between people).

• Do not stand near the bus operator.

• Consider adjusting your trips to the off-peak.

• Be courteous to other riders and the bus operator by following the CDC COVID-19 Prevention tips posted on the buses.

On a public address system aboard every bus a recording can now be heard several times each ride: “In the interest of public health, please maintain an arm’s length distance from others.” 

METRO is increasing cleaning of “high touch” common areas and focusing on places that are most likely to be touched or interacted with. 

METRO’s buses and paratransit vehicles (ParaCruz) regularly receive a normal cleaning of key areas, like handrails, stanchions and hand straps, Clifford said. They have also recently augmented normal cleaning by using a disinfectant product on buses and paratransit vehicles when they are cleaned.

METRO has also increased the number of cleanings at facilities open to the public, such as restrooms at Transit Centers and at customer information booths. While these areas are typically cleaned every eight hours, METRO will be disinfecting various “high touch” surfaces up to once every two hours, based on staffing availability. For information, visit, or call 425-8600.

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Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. More recently Good Times & Press Banner. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.


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