County Express On-Demand—a transportation service for San Benito County residents—will temporarily suspend operations “due to a historic driver shortage,” says a press release from the county.
The suspension of service will be effective Aug. 11. The shortage of drivers is both a regional and nationwide concern that has impacted public transportation services since the Covid-19 pandemic began, according to county officials.
County Express allows passengers to use a smartphone app to request rides for reservation for pickup and drop-off. The service will resume when driver ranks increase, says the press release.
The upcoming demand from students set to begin the 2022-23 school year later this month is expected to place an additional demand on the service, prompting the planned County Express suspension, county staff explained. Many local students rely on public transit to get to and from school.
“We would much rather be expanding our transit service since we just completed an update to our transit plan for the next five years,” said Regina Valentine, County Express and San Benito County Local Transportation Authority Transportation Planner. “But by reducing our service levels, we increase our reliability, so riders experience fewer delays. We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate the public’s understanding during these service adjustments.”
Passengers in Hollister who still need transportation can still use the County Express Dial-a-Ride program. Dial-a-Ride trips can be scheduled up to two weeks in advance or on the day of the ride, as space allows, the press release continues. Allow 30 minutes to be picked up and another 30 minutes to reach the destination.
The one-way cost for a Dial-a-Ride is $2 for adults. Discounted fares are $1.25 for youth age 5-17, seniors age 65 and up, and people with disabilities.
For more information, visit SanBenitoCountyExpress.org.
County Express is working with its contractor, MV Transportation, to ramp up recruitment efforts to attract new driver applicants, the press release continues. Anyone interested in applying for a County Express driver position can call 831.636.4161 and ask to speak with MV Transportation General Manager Leona Medearis-Peacher.
County Express follows all public health guidelines to support safe travel on the bus, says the press release. Operators frequently clean and disinfect transit vehicles.
Passengers on County Express are encouraged to wear a face covering at all times regardless of vaccination status. “County Express puts public health first by actively monitoring CDC guidelines and requiring riders and employees to avoid public transit if they have been exposed to Covid-19 or feel ill,” says the press release.