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Heroes among us: How MetroLINK is keeping riders, drivers safe

Right now, MetroLINK in the Quad Cities is running their full routes and schedules, seven days a week.

MOLINE, Ill. — Right now, MetroLINK in the Quad Cities is running their full routes and schedules, seven days a week. And more than 60% of their riders rely on public transit to get to their jobs.

“Jobs, healthcare, the grocery - all those are essential trips,” said Administration Manager, Jennifer Hirsch.

She said the transit service took a serious look at the threat of COVID-19 nearly ten weeks ago.

“Our drivers have been equipped with hand sanitizers and PPE,” said Hirsch. “We’re also asking our riders if you have to go out and use public transit to consider wearing a face covering.”

A month ago, MetroLINK began waiving all fees to ride the transit - helping reduce interactions between operators and riders.

“We’ve also asked riders to use the rear door when boarding if they can,” she said.

Hirsch said the company has also thoroughly increased their cleaning and disinfecting protocols.

"We are out there in the field throughout the day, wiping down, disinfecting high touch point surfaces on the vehicles," said Hirsch. "And when they come in for the evenings we have almost a double disinfectant process."

She adds that the precautionary measures are not only to protect their riders, but to protect the essential employees that provide the essential service.

"Public transit workers are those unsung heroes. Doesn’t always come to the forefront of your mind when you think about essential workers," Hirsch said.

While rides and revenue decline, Hirsch said the Quad Cities MetroLINK did qualify to receive federal aid through the CARES Act. However, she said exactly how much is award is still to be determined.

"All the additional safety measure we’ve put into place in terms of cleaning, disinfecting, PPE - those sorts of items - the CARES Act will help supplement those expenses," said Hirsch.

More than 150 employees make up MetroLINK's total workforce - drivers, customer service, mechanics and administrative support staff. And Hirsch said the company has been fortunate to have those same employees return to work each day.