While the GO bg Transit system continues to operate – and has even seen a recent increase in ridership – social distancing guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic will require more changes to the service this week.
The city’s transit system, operated by Community Action of Southern Kentucky, saw ridership drop 26 percent between February and March. But last Friday, “we spiked back up,” said Carroll Duckworth, CASK’s transportation director.
Last Wednesday, the system had 174 riders, but that number surged to 254 passengers Friday. Duckworth said he saw a bus that day with 19 people on it. While some of the increase might have been attributable to it being the first Friday of the month, which is typically a busy day, the service is still the sole transportation source for many residents.
As a result, “we are caught between a rock and a hard place,” Duckworth said. “People need to use transportation for vital services and we still have to abide by the (social distancing) orders.”
Transportation has been deemed an essential business exempt from closure, “but that doesn’t excuse us from having to abide by social distancing,” he said.
To aid in that effort, GO bg is initiating several steps to go into effect Wednesday:
- Bus drivers will limit the number of passengers on each bus. When capacity is reached, the drivers will request another vehicle to take waiting passengers.
- Aisle seats and seats in every other row will be marked as unavailable.
- Drivers will help air circulation with open windows as the weather permits.
- Select bus stop shelters will close, although the bus stop will continue to be active unless indicated otherwise.
GO bg had previously stepped up vehicle cleaning and sanitization and reduced some operation hours. It also stopped Saturday shopping routes.
What the new steps will mean is that larger buses with a capacity of 25 passengers will now only carry about six riders at a time.
Some of the smaller buses may carry only three or four passengers, Duckworth said.
Additional buses will be sent to augment full buses as the equipment and staffing allow. Duckworth said GO bg has retained all its employees, but some have decided not to work, while some are self-quarantining after possible exposure to individuals with coronavirus.
Duckworth said GO bg will continue to operate but is urging riders to only use it for essential travel, such as for work, grocery shopping or medical visits.
He said the agency is looking to take additional steps, such as installing barriers between drivers and passengers. Drivers have also been equipped with masks and gloves, although they are running low on those supplies.
Some transit services around the country have discontinued fares amid the coronavirus pandemic to eliminate drivers from having to handle money.
Duckworth said GO bg has decided against that strategy because it doesn’t want to encourage non-essential travel. That’s a counterintuitive move for a service that typically is looking to increase ridership, but “we have to (do all we can) to protect our staff and riders,” Duckworth said.