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For more news about the COVID-19 coronavirus, access the News Tribune Health section.

Amid our national health emergency, public transit is essential for some people in our community.

The Jefferson City Transit System is working to balance ongoing service and safety.

JeffTran buses have temporarily suspended all fares, allowing free rides through the citywide bus system.

We applaud the move, as it makes transportation available for people who may have already been laid off or otherwise financially effected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

This will allow people essential travel during this time to places such as grocery stores.

Both entry and exit on the buses will be through the back door.

The suspended fares only applies to JeffTran, not Handi-Wheels.

The OATS transit system also is continuing, but only to provide essential transportation, at least through April 6.

Essential service transportation is defined as dialysis, doctor appointments, grocery shopping, food banks, etc.

The service will monitor the situation in hopes of returning to normal as soon as possible.

Also, the number of people on the OATS buses will be limited to ensure proper social distancing.

OATS drivers will refrain from touching personal belongings and packages.

OATS asks its riders to delay all non-essential appointments.

Kimberly Cella, executive director of both Citizens for Modern Transit and the Missouri Public Transit Association, is pushing for relief funding for the state's public transit agencies.

"It is imperative Missourians reach out to their Congressional delegation to underscore the importance of public transit funding being part of the national relief package," she wrote. "The Senate COVID-19 Relief Bill currently includes $20 billion for public transit with $4 billion of that for rural transit, and we must ensure this funding remains intact.

She said in an email that transit agencies "have the backs of local communities — and right now they need support."

We agree. During this emergency, we need to make sure public transit has the resources it needs to keep providing what has become an increasingly essential service for some.

News Tribune

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