Directors for the Metro bus lines will hold an emergency teleconference Wednesday night to consider reducing service and suspending fares as the company tries to protect both riders and employees from the coronavirus.

The meeting, which begins at 5 p.m., will be closed to the public, but people can listen in and will have an opportunity to call in with questions or comments during the meeting.

A decision to reduce service would have a significant impact. Its buses handle about 8,000 rider boardings each day, according to Greater Portland Metro General Manager Greg Jordan.

Jordan said directors will consider a proposal from staff to replace weekday bus schedules with Saturday and Sunday schedules. If the proposal is approved, that would reduce the number of bus trips Monday through Friday effective March 20 through April 17.

Directors will also consider suspending bus fares from March 20 through April 30. Jordan said the fare suspension would eliminate the need for drivers to handle money, tickets and paper transfers, further reducing the risk of infection.

Jordan said directors and Metro staff will make every effort to keep the bus transit system operating, but noted that directors will be asked at the emergency meeting to give him the authority to shut service down if the outbreak worsens.

“We are doing our best to maintain the best service possible for our riders,” Jordan said Tuesday evening in a telephone interview.

Jordan said that none of his 68 drivers appear to have the virus, but that could change. If drivers start to call in sick, then further service reductions or a full closure might become necessary.

Formed in 1966, the Greater Portland Metro is a regional transportation system serving communities in southern Maine. Those communities include Portland, Westbrook, Falmouth, Gorham and parts of South Portland. Metro’s Breez bus services Yarmouth, Freeport and Brunswick.

In 2019, annual ridership for Greater Portland Metro exceeded 2.1 million, breaking the 2018 ridership record of 1.9 million.

Wednesday’s meeting begins at 5 p.m. Members of the public who want to listen in or provide comments must contact 603-250-1180 and enter participant code 124663 followed by the # key.

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