Understaffed US transportation companies adjust their services as Omicron rises

B.y Danielle Kaye

NEW YORK, December 30 (Reuters)Transportation agencies in the US are suspending or reducing service due to COVID-19 staff shortages as the Omicron variant increases nationwide.

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) closed three subway lines in New York City this week – one on Wednesday and two more on Thursday – due to staff shortages, although all stations will remain open, according to MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan.

The MTA has suspended lines serving four of the city’s five boroughs – the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens, including the W line, which was suspended on Wednesday and continued to be suspended on Thursday when the MTA also suspended the B and Z-lines shortened.

For the second straight day, the United States saw a record seven-day average of new reported cases, with more than 290,000 new infections reported per day, a Reuters tally showed how US officials measured the effects of the more permeable Omicron variant.

In Ohio, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) was able to maintain service despite increasing COVID-19 cases among employees, but staff shortages forced a reduction in train frequency on their high-speed routes this week. Instead of the normal train frequency every 15 to 30 minutes, the frequency has been increased to 45 minutes to an hour, said RTA spokeswoman Linda Krecic.

“We have worked carefully to make sure we can meet our schedules,” said Krecic, adding that passenger numbers have remained high over the past few weeks despite Omicron’s concerns.

In Southern California, staff shortages at Metrolink, the regional passenger rail system, forced the agency to cancel scheduled early morning trains departing from a New Year’s Eve event in San Bernardino.

Metrolink spokeswoman Laurene Lopez said the agency had seen an increase in COVID-19 cases among employees and contractors this week.

(Reporting by Danielle Kaye; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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