Watsonville Christian Church

METRO pledges to improve safety

James Sandoval, general chairperson for SMART Local 23, inspects a METRO bus for its latest pandemic safety equipment. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

SANTA CRUZ—In an effort to meet public transit safety standards set during the Covid-19 pandemic, officials at Santa Cruz METRO at a Wednesday press conference showcased the safety and precautionary measures they have put in place.

Santa Cruz County Supervisor John Leopold and METRO Board of Directors Chair Mike Rotkin joined METRO officials in the brief ceremony flanked by two buses that were on display to give a first-hand view of how the buses are geared to protect passengers and drivers.

METRO has installed hand sanitizer dispensers, between-row sneeze barriers and clear plastic operator curtains on its busses. It has also posted all preventative guidelines.

METRO CEO and General Manager Alex Clifford welcomed the crowd of around 30 people.

“Today we relaunch our pledge and welcome back our customers in helping them to feel good about the protective measures that we put in place for both our customers and for our employees,” he said.

On Oct. 12 METRO announced that it joined the American Public Transportation Association’s Health and Safety Commitments Program, tabbed as the industry’s pledge to passengers that transit systems are taking the necessary measures to operate safely during the pandemic.

“By signing the pledge we are joining 150 other transit agencies in the country who are actively working to instill confidence in riders by committing to protect their health and safety,” said Leopold, also a member of METRO’s Board of Directors.

The pledge was developed after organizers talked to riders across the country to understand what they needed to feel confident while returning to public transit. METRO also conducted a similar survey.

“If we can avoid things like the tragic outbreak that we had at the Watsonville Post Acute Center and continue to practice the simple rules we can keep our community safe and we can think about other things that might be able to reopen,” Leopold said.

James Sandoval, general chairperson for SMART Local 23, the union representing METRO operators, said the agency and the union have only one goal in mind: “to make sure our employees, our operators and our customers are safe while using our services.”

“We want our community and our customers to know that we are taking all necessary steps to safely transport them while using our services and encourage riders to return back to METRO,” Sandoval said. 

For information on METRO’s safety guidelines, visit scmtd.com/safety.