Catching the U bus to head back to South Campus after a long day of classes looks a little different this semester.
As UNC students are re-entering in-person classes, Chapel Hill Transit is back in action. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the bus system has taken extra precautions to keep the community safe.
For more information about routes or precautions, visit Chapel Hill Transit's website.
As in the fall, the transit system runs with a reduced schedule, requires all riders to wear masks and limits the number of people who can ride to 16 people on the regular vehicles and 21 people on the larger vehicles.
Jeffrey Sullivan, community outreach manager at Chapel Hill Transit, said the system has taken measures since the onset of the pandemic to reduce the spread.
“We were among the first transit agencies in the state to limit the number of customers allowed on the buses and to mandate mask usage among our operators,” he said. “We have consistently followed the governor's executive orders regarding the mask-wearing.”
First-year geography major David Go said he uses Chapel Hill transit three to four times a week to get to campus. He said students always wear their masks and practice social distancing.
“I’ve always felt safe,” Go said. “I’ve never seen anyone try to break the rules. We all want to keep the community safe.”
Ronik Grewal, a first-year student majoring in information sciences, said the bus operators have also been enforcing COVID-19 guidelines for riders.
“Every time someone new gets on the bus, the (operator) reminds them to keep their mask on and practice social distancing," Grewal said. “They also provide hand sanitizer and stop accepting new riders after hitting capacity.”
Sullivan said bus operators have experienced a range of feelings during the pandemic. Some report missing their co-workers, and many are looking forward to normalcy.
“Operators are going through the same feelings we all are,” Sullivan said. “Many are worried about spreading the virus to their families, loss of income and navigating virtual learning for their children.”
To combat this, Sullivan said Chapel Hill Transit is focused on keeping team members safe and showing appreciation for their service through events, words of encouragement and job security.
Sullivan also said Chapel Hill Transit has seen a significant decrease in riders since the beginning of the pandemic, and it has been able to manage capacity limits through its partnership with the University.
For Grewal, the pandemic has actually increased his bus usage. He said he uses the bus a few times a week to go to an off-campus gym.
“If life were normal, I would just walk to the gym on campus,” he said. “But Campus Recreation is always booked solid, so I’ve had to go off-campus to work out.”
Sullivan said Chapel Hill Transit is advocating for bus operators’ priority in testing, safety equipment and eventually vaccines.
“Transit operators have never stopped working during the pandemic," he said. "As front line employees they have consistently reported for duty and come into contact with dozens of people on a daily basis. Transit operators are heroes.”
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