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Rochester transportation industry learns to adapt while restrictions slowly lift

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Rochester Public Transit bus in downtown Rochester

ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- Friday, the CDC released new guidelines easing restrictions regarding travel for people who have been fully vaccinated.

However, many things stay the same and many local transportation options are still not back to normal.

"If you need to travel, feel comfortable, advises John Reed, Rochester International Airport (RST) executive director. "Wear your mask and do the right things that the CDC recommends."

Friday's new travel guidance is a reason for air travel officials and passengers to be optimistic.

"The ability to not feel concerned about COVID testing before and after travel as well as quarantining is great news," Reed said.

Testing and quarantining restrictions remain in place for non-vaccinated people and those traveling internationally. Even so, airports, including RST, are seeing a slow uptick in passengers as more Americans get vaccinated.

"About 45 percent is where we're at. We're matching national trends," Reed said. "It's good to see those that need to travel coming back to RST."

The pandemic impacted ground travel as well. Rochester Public Transit had to rethink its service. It included implementing more than just health guidelines.

"As the ridership slowly started to come back, we have adjusted our routes to meet the demands of the people on the way," said Nick Lemmer, Rochester Public Transit marketing and outreach coordinator.

However, business at Rochester City Lines is down to more than 90 percent.

"Right now, we do have some high school and college competitions taking place, so we've been able to transport those teams to tournaments and events," said Christian Holter, Rochester City Lines director of operations.

The bus line also runs a few workforce shuttles. It has required a few changes to the buses. Despite the decline, the company is not planning to rush people back on board.

"We don't have a timeline," Holter said. "We're continuing to monitor the environment for the right time and right things to be in place."

The business which has been in Rochester for over 50 years could be back to normal later in the year.

"We're looking forward to a more prosperous 2021," Holter said, a third generation family employee. "We're grateful for federal and state programs that have been out there. We wouldn't be here if not for those programs."

Despite having to suspend collecting bus far, Rochester Public Transit is feeling grateful as well.

"I really want to thank the drivers, passengers and everyone who has been working together through this tough time," Lemmer said.

All travelers should know the CDC does not consider someone fully vaccinated until 14 days have past since their Johnson & Johnson shot or second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

Alex Tejada

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