The Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky will resume "nearly full (bus) service levels" throughout Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties starting June 20, the agency announced Thursday.
Buses also will continue to operate fare-free in efforts to promote social distancing recommendations and reduce points of contact among passengers and between passengers and bus operators.
"We're seeing increased demand on most routes and know that people are slowly getting back to work," Andrew Aiello, TANK General Manager, said in a news release. "It's the right time to begin the climb back to normal weekday service levels."
Aiello said full service would resume on all routes except the #35X East-West Express, which stretches across the three counties between Florence Mall and Northern Kentucky University, as well as the Southbank Shuttle, which was popular with Northern Kentucky commuters who work Downtown.
Aiello said the final two routes couldn't resume yet due to a drop in staffing as the pandemic has progressed.
"Operator turnover, combined with being unable to hire, test, license and train new bus operators over the last few months...leaves us with fewer employees than are required to return to full service levels," he said in the release. "Until we can return to full employment, the Southbank Shuttle and 35X will not have service."
On March 23, TANK reduced bus service to a modified Sunday schedule for all routes throughout the week -- and made the buses free to ride -- after ridership plummeted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite facing a steep drop in fare revenue, transit officials opted to suspend fare collection and ask riders to board the bus from its rear doors, to allow passengers to avoid having to touch a shared fare box and to keep the bus operator at a safe distance from people riding.
Thursday's announcement came less than a day after the TANK Board of Directors voted to approve a massive proposed redesign of the bus system that will eliminate as many as 11 routes and refocus service on its most heavily traveled corridors.