Facing a staff shortage and coronavirus-related disruptions, Capital Metro will temporarily reduce service on all 15 of its high-frequency network routes in addition to MetroRapid routes starting Sept. 19.

The public transit agency lists 20 routes in total that will begin to run less frequently, including the late-night E-Bus routes being suspended.

Chief Operating Officer Dottie Watkins discussed the service challenges during its Aug. 30 board meeting.

“We are currently today 100 bus operators short of what it would take to operate the service levels that we committed for the current service period, which started Aug. 19,” Watkins said. “On top of that is somewhere in the range of about 20 to 25 people every day additionally absent for COVID-related reasons, whether it is someone who they themselves have COVID or they are quarantined due to an exposure to COVID and that is also adding an extra layer of impact to our ability to provide good service.”

According to the Capital Metro website, the staffing shortage dates back a few years and has been exacerbated by the pandemic. The public transit agency is actively recruiting operators and technicians, offering up to $3,500 hiring bonuses for qualified candidates.

In an effort to provide more consistent service, Capital Metro will move some of its 10- to 12-minute frequency routes to 15 minutes as well as pushing some of its other routes to 20- or 30-minute frequencies.

The 10 to 12-minute frequency routes were originally 15-minute, but had increased frequency to allow for greater distance between riders as a COVID-19 safety precaution. The buses have since installed new air filtration systems.

Seven of the bus routes will see impacted service every day of the week. Among those buses, the largest changes include shifting the 18-Martin Luther King, 217-Montopolis Feeder and 335-35th/38th routes from 15-minute to 30-minute frequency.

An additional 10 routes, which include the suspended E-Bus routes, will only be impacted on weekends.

The 7-Duval/Dove Springs, 10-South 1st/Red River and 20-Manor Rd/Riverside routes will only see impacts on weekdays with frequency moving from 10-12 minutes to 15 minutes.

A full list of the service changes can be found on the Capital Metro website.