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The Daily Tar Heel

Chapel Hill Transit employees ready for more snow

Chapel Hill Transit monitors route safety throughout the day.

Michael Purdie, a Chapel Hill Transit bus driver from Durham, said he doesn’t mind working on snow days.

“The whole town comes together. We know this town operates by Chapel Hill Transit. We know they depend on us,” Purdie said. “So we try to get the folks where they need to go.”

Brian Litchfield, Chapel Hill Transit director, said they must continually monitor conditions.

“We average about 25,000 trips each day,” Litchfield said. “We have to evaluate each route. We’re making determinations in real time.”

Nick Pittman, a Chapel Hill Transit operations manager, said people came in as early as 1 a.m. Tuesday to start checking the far ends of each route.

“We also work with town staff and internal staff to put down sand or ice melt (a salt mixture),” he said.

Pittman said he reminds operators to slow down and be safe. No Chapel Hill Transit buses were involved in accidents Tuesday.

“We work with our operators to teach them defensive driving techniques and really get them trained on how to handle any kind of weather,” Pittman said.

Allison McGee, who travels from Durham to UNC for work, said she felt safe yesterday despite the snow.

“I know they’re well-trained,” she said. “Mainly I feel nervous about other drivers.”

When UNC classes were canceled at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Chapel Hill Transit dispatched additional buses.

“As soon as we knew, within minutes we had operators lined up trying to start their afternoon work,” Pittman said.

Litchfield said when the University or local schools close early, they try to find operators available to work extra or start their routes earlier.

“Sometimes we’re not able to do that,” Litchfield said. “We can’t always tell our operators, ‘Hey, we need you to work right now.’”

He said calling in extra drivers or other employees has an impact on the budget.

“Most times we’re able to absorb those costs within our adopted budget,” Litchfield said. “Over the last couple of years we’ve been able to do so.”

He said Chapel Hill Transit tries to reach its customers about changes to routes on Twitter and Facebook, as well as on their website, local radio and local TV stations.

Delays are inevitable when the roads are icy, and Litchfield encourages riders to use apps like NextBus that show where buses are in real time.

“We tell them if you have to travel during these events, dress warmly, be safe and expect delays,” he said.

He said with some weather services predicting more than a foot of snow overnight Wednesday, there may be significant impacts on transit.

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“If we get that much snow, my guess is we’ll be on break for a while.”