As Blacksburg Transit transitioned back into full service Aug. 22, bus services anticipate two-thirds of their normal ridership posing strict social distancing and public health guidelines.
“Our ridership is much different than what you expect for a normal fall semester,” said Ken Tucker, communications and customer support manager for Blacksburg Transit. “During a normal fall semester weekday — Monday through Thursday — you can expect that we would have approximately anywhere from 20,000 to 26,000 trips a day. Our numbers (now) have been closer to approximately 5,000 trips a day.”
Blacksburg Transit has undergone many changes to suit our new coronavirus reality. By limiting the number of riders in a shared space, Blacksburg Transit is reducing large buses to two-thirds capacity and small busses to one-third passenger capacity. Blacksburg Transit accepted a maximum of nine passengers at-a-time during the summer. Front-door boarding resumed Aug. 19 in preparation for the resurgence of students in the Blacksburg-Christiansburg area. Additionally, Blacksburg Transit will provide “fill-in” buses to alleviate the potential for overcrowding on nearby buses.
“We have reduced the capacity for what we call revenue vehicles,” Tucker said about the one of many changes Blacksburg Transit has taken to adapt to the pandemic. “Those capacity limits will not mean that you can have 6 feet of space on the bus,” Tucker added, acknowledging the difficulties when riding public buses.
Blacksburg Transit is depending on students and the Blacksburg community to do their part in reducing the spread of coronavirus. To “(ensure) the safety of our community and employees”, Blacksburg Transit is asking passengers to have rider courtesy by wearing face coverings and being socially distant aware according to their website. Blacksburg Transit is requiring all customers who ride their buses to wear a proper face covering.
Plastic barriers have also been installed to protect bus drivers from the potential transmission of coronavirus between either themselves or nearby passengers. The bus system continues to operate 10 to 15 minutes during the weekdays and hopes this limited time among routes will reduce the duration of potential exposure.
Blacksburg Transit has canceled additional services for the fall semester including late-night weekend bus rides and on-demand services, such as its texting and calling services. Bus services will end at 12:45 a.m. during full-service hours throughout the week.
“One of the things we have been very careful to do, much like Virginia Tech and the Town of Blacksburg which we are a part of, is we follow the science,” Tucker said. Health agencies such as the New River Health District and Centers for Disease Control have helped guide Blacksburg Transit to provide safe public transportation amid the pandemic.