There is great optimism about the COVID vaccine program ramping up in New Jersey and how it will help get us back to a more normal way of life. But for now, most people who normally use mass transit are either working from home or taking their own vehicles.

According to NJ Transit President and CEO Kevin Corbett, train and bus travel dropped by 95% at the height of the pandemic in the spring.

He said a slow improvement began last summer but ridership into New York and Philadelphia is still low.

Into New York, ridership is at 25% of what it used to. Into Philadelphia, it's at 35%.

Light rail is at 55% while buses are at 70%, with some routes back to 100%.

Corbett said for all of these modes of transportation, “to come back fully it’s going to take the vaccination and the major cities reopening, to get that commuter pattern coming back.”

He said cleaning and sanitization protocols are being followed to make sure commuters and NJ Transit employees are safe.

“We were actually the first transit agency that started not just cleaning but daily sanitization of all of our equipment, buses and rail cars,” he said. “Conductors now are using hand-held scanners like iPhones to validate tickets. We’re doing a lot of things to really improve conditions both for the employees and for the riders."

Corbett also pointed out mask-wearing compliance is high.

He noted NJ Transit is comparing safety and sanitization best practices with other mass transit agencies in Australia, Singapore, London, Paris and Vienna.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

MUST SEE: How to make Dennis' lasagna

REST IN PEACE: Stars We Lost in 2020