The Duluth Transit Authority will suspend service indefinitely next week on a half-dozen routes, citing a driver shortage due to coronavirus.
"We had one driver test positive and did some contact tracing, and there are others being tested," General Manager Phil Pumphrey said Friday. "We're trying to protect the work force and our customers."
Impacted drivers are not working, Pumphrey added, anticipating the routes to be down until at least Thanksgiving.
"It'll be until we have enough drivers and get out of this situation," Pumphrey said.
The DTA is currently training seven drivers as part of a six-week program. Over the summer, the DTA added a class of 10 new drivers. Typically, the DTA operates with a roster of 100-102 drivers available. That's currently not the case.
"We're a little short," Pumphrey said. "We need the seven in the new class."
Any "sniffles" among employee ranks are being treated with COVID-19 protocols, too, Pumphrey said, taking out other drivers until they clear COVID-19 testing.
The soon-to-be suspended routes go down Tuesday and include:
- Route No. 4 West Duluth (service available on routes 1, 2, 3).
- Route No. 15 Park Point (Dial-A-Ride/on-demand service available by calling 218-722-7283).
- Route No. 18 Duluth Heights (can use UMD Boulder Ridge Shuttle).
- Route No. 23 UMD Circulator (service available on routes 6, 11, 13).
- Route No. 25 Downtown Circulator (service available on a combination of several downtown routes).
- One outbound “From Downtown” Route 10E trip at 5:40 p.m. will also be suspended.
- Changes do not affect STRIDE paratransit service.
"It's a cut of 15% of our total services, but there are many alternatives to a lot of the services we'll be reducing," Pumphrey said. "If not all, most of these routes are covered by other routes that have a lot of the same service. Customers on the 18 can use the Boulder Ridge Shuttle, for example."
Pumphrey also cited a backlog existing due to the Minnesota Department of Motor Vehicles being closed earlier this year.
"We are working diligently to bring our service back, and apologize to our customers for any inconvenience they may experience,” Pumphrey said.