BART has cut its weekday service by roughly half amid ongoing ridership declines during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo illustration/Bay City News Foundation)

In response to the coronavirus pandemic and the statewide stay-at-home order that severely restricts the amount of people going to work, BART announced Monday that it will make deep cuts to its service until further notice.

Starting Wednesday, the transit system that once averaged up to 400,000 daily riders will cancel every other train during its weekday hours of operation, which were reduced to 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. on March 23.

The new cuts mean that weekday trains will run every 30 minutes, a reduction that BART officials say will still allow for proper social distancing on trains since ridership is now at 7 percent of normal.

Weekend service remains unchanged for now, with the system operating from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“With so many unknowns about the length of the shelter in place orders and the timing of recovery, we must take steps to protect the operating budget while also protecting our ability to run service every 30 minutes,” BART General Manager Bob Powers said.

The new schedule could save the transit agency as much as $3 million to $7 million every month that it’s in effect, according to BART officials.

Budget estimates pin possible budget shortfalls due to the COVID-19 restrictions at somewhere between $258 million to $452 million, according to BART officials.

While the federal government has included some money in the recently passed stimulus package, it is not enough to fully reimburse the system for its losses.

With the reduction in the number of trains moving through the system, BART officials say they are now able to focus more effort on building, repair and maintenance projects.

For personalized trip planning assistance, call BART at 510-465-2278 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Kiley Russell writes primarily for Local News Matters on issues related to equity and the environment. A Bay Area native, he has lived most of his life in Oakland. He studied journalism at San Francisco State University, worked for the Associated Press and the former Contra Costa Times, among other outlets. He has covered everything from state legislatures, local governments, federal and state courts, crime, growth and development, political campaigns of various stripes, wildfires and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.