The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (TheRide) has released a statement with suggestions for businesses, institutions, and community members to help “flatten the rush-hour curve” as Governor Whitmer’s COVID-19 restrictions gradually lift with executive orders 2020-114 and 2020-115.
On Monday, June 8, TheRide released a statement explaining that TheRide, anticipating a surge in demand on bus services in the fall, has devised a plan to handle the incoming riders while being mindful of social distancing guidelines.
TheRide’s proposed measures come almost three months since TheRide minimized bus services to assist in slowing the spread of the COVID-19 in Washtenaw County.
TheRide suggested measures that local administration and individuals can adopt to prevent rider concentration at peak times. Typical rush hour rider density can create COVID-19 transmission hotspots in buses and bus stops.
Suggestions include continuing remote work, adopting rotational staff schedules, commuting via walking/biking, supplying students and employees with PPE, and the staggering of work and class schedules.
“As more businesses and schools reopen, we know more people will need to use our service. We are asking for the community’s support in preventing gridlock and crowding during the commute,” Matt Carpenter, CEO of TheRide, said.
Several measures have already been taken by TheRide to increase rider safety. Buses have been outfitted with plexiglass barriers to separate the driver from the riders, and signs are placed that encourage social distancing. Additionally, hand sanitizer is available at buses and transit centers, as well as enhanced cleaning procedures implemented in high-touch areas on buses, shelters, and transit facilities.
The existing plexiglass barriers separate the driver from the riders, however, Carpenter told the Echo that TheRide is also looking into installing barriers that reduce rider to rider contact.
“We are in support of the guidelines [TheRide] have laid out should you need to use their service. We urge the public and local businesses to be aware of the risks of crowded spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic and encourage those that must travel to wear face coverings,“ Jimena Loveluck, Health Officer from Washtenaw County Health Department said.
“Park and Ride” bus service will resume on Monday, June 15, and added services will return in August however it will not be a complete restoration of service.*
Carpenter said TheRide is limiting itself to the the “Park and Ride” service because they are “holding some buses in reserve” should they need more buses if there is crowding on a route where it was not anticipated.
“If everyone thinks about the commute this fall, it’ll all make a big difference,“ Carpenter said.
*A minor change was made to this story as it initally communicated that bus service more similar to pre-pandemic services would resume in August. However, TheRide clarified that, “[w]hile we do plan to add more service in August, it will not be a complete restoration of service."