As many UNC community members return to campus Monday for the spring semester, Chapel Hill Transit is further reducing services beginning the same day.
Chapel Hill Transit will temporarily reduce seven transit routes. The changes come as COVID-19 cases have intensified Chapel Hill Transit's ongoing staffing shortages and are intended to make services more reliable for riders, according to a Jan. 7 press release.
“Please be patient with our operators and team members during this time,” Jeffrey Sullivan, community outreach manager for Chapel Hill Transit, said in the press release. "Nobody on our team wants to see these service changes, but we’re doing everything possible to ensure safety and reliability on transit.
Sullivan also said the Chapel Hill Transit team was working to recruit new operators, and its current team is observing proper COVID-19 protocols. Last semester, service was reduced as the transit system managed the shortages.
Chapel Hill Transit Director Brian Litchfield said the changes starting Monday should minimize the number of trips missed due to staffing challenges. He said the adjustments are a culmination of new changes this month as well as changes from September 2021.
“If we didn’t make these changes, we would have trips that were on the schedule that we may not and would likely not be able to operate,” Litchfield said.
He said the adjustments will help prevent cancellation announcements the morning of trips, which happened increasingly often in the past few weeks with the omicron variant.
Litchfield said the changes should focus operators onto core routes and services. He said 10 to 25 people are out of work on any given day now due to COVID-19 protocols. This, coupled with more unfilled positions from hiring challenges, results in a staff roughly 40 percent below its normal capacity.
Reductions will be made to the following routes:
“Our focus throughout COVID has been the safety of our teammates and customers and that has continued to be our priority,” Litchfield said.
The bus system is enforcing safety measures to prevent COVID-19 spread such as sanitization, face covering requirements and adherence to a standee line. The standee line requires passengers to stand behind a yellow line on all buses while they are in motion.
Litchfield said Chapel Hill Transit has implemented ultraviolet systems so that clean air flows through buses. He also said shields are in place to help maintain distance between operators and customers.
He said the transit services will continue to monitor COVID-19 case levels and follow guidance from health officials.
“We appreciate our customers being patient and understanding," Litchfield said. "And we encourage them to be as patient and understanding with our operators."
He said if people have concerns, they should direct them to customer service and not the operators. He also stressed that these changes will hopefully be only temporary.
UNC junior Caroline Bowersox said she uses some of the services that are being cut.
“I’m a bit nervous about how I need to schedule out my mornings now that bus services are being limited," Bowersox said. "I’m hoping that I can just follow the schedule of when each bus should arrive at the stop, but those aren’t always accurate as buses get stuck in traffic a lot of the times."
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