Parts of Bay Area halt light rail service due to coronavirus epidemic

A couple approaches an empty cable car on March 16 in San Francisco.
A couple approaches an empty cable car on March 16 in San Francisco.
(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Light rail service is being suspended in San Francisco and Silicon Valley due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority immediately suspended light rail service Wednesday night after a light rail operator trainee tested positive for the coronavirus, the agency said.

“Operators are being told to shelter in place until they receive further instructions to quarantine and/or be tested,” the authority said.

Light rail ridership in Santa Clara County has dropped by 82% since the region implemented a shelter-in-place order, and the transit system “will now focus our operational resources on bus service which is more nimble and can adapt to the various needs of our community,” the authority said.


In San Francisco, the Muni Metro light rail system will be replaced by buses starting Monday. “Closing the Muni Metro underground system will allow us to redirect custodial resources to other, higher-use facilities and minimizes risk to our station agents,” the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency said in a statement.

“Based on our ridership data and observations, we do not expect these changes to impact the ability of our riders and operators to maintain social distance.”

Service has already been suspended on the city’s famed cable car and historic streetcar system. BART has already started ending service at 9 p.m., earlier than its standard closing time of midnight.

In the East Bay, bus riders were being asked to board the bus from the rear door and don’t need to pay a fare, a measure that will help keep passengers farther away from AC Transit bus drivers.

“Customers are strongly encouraged to stay or sit 6-feet from other passengers and the bus operator when boarding, exiting and riding the bus,” AC Transit said in a statement.

San Francisco officials have expressed concern about a coming spike in coronavirus cases. Santa Clara County has been California’s epicenter.