Capital Metro will offer free service throughout October for all services, with the exception of MetroBike. The move comes after Capital Metro reduced service on 20 routes Sept. 19 due to staff shortages.

“The fare suspension is being put in place to thank customers as the agency works to mitigate the service impacts resulting from staff shortages and to encourage customers to return to transit as our economy recovers from COVID-19,” the press release read. It added that the move is a small way to ease the challenges of its reduced service.

Capital Metro previously offered free fares from April 1-June 1 in 2020 as a COVID-19 precaution, Capital Metro Communications Specialist Jenna Maxfield said in an email.

“Free fares were offered at this time to help the community practice social distancing by eliminating the need for customers to show their pass, pay the operator or use the farebox,” Maxfield added.

Dottie Watkins, Capital Metro chief operating officer, reported between 20-25 employees were missing work for COVID-19 reasons on a daily basis during its Aug. 30 board meeting.

However, that number has started to decline, Maxfield said. She added that 73% of Capital Metro staff is vaccinated and that the agency has no plans to require employees to get the vaccine or show negative tests.

Capital Metro has aggressively expanded its recruiting efforts, boosting hiring bonuses to as high as $3,500, according to the press release. It also offers full benefits, including medical, dental and vision to all employees.