Transportation Services adapts to COVID-19

The Battalion

By Julia Potts

Published Aug 16, 2020

student holds rail in bus
Aggie Spirit bus drivers will wipe down high-touch areas during the day as one of the many new precautions implemented by Transportation Services.
Photo by Meredith Seaver

While many organizations on campus are adapting to health concerns over the coronavirus, Transportation Services at Texas A&M has taken extra precautions to make sure passengers have a safe and healthy ride.

Transportation Services recently updated its website with new transit and parking information relating to COVID-19. Passengers will be required to wear a mask on the bus and will continue to enter through the front door and exit through the rear door. The maximum capacity for buses will be 50-60 passengers and any bus that reaches or exceeds that number will bypass stops until it drops below capacity.

Brent Kelm, assistant manager for Transportation Services, said there is a cleaning routine in place for the buses to help prevent the spread of the virus.

“Once a week, on Sundays or Saturdays, buses are fogged with a product called Vital Oxide, which persists for about seven days on hard surfaces,” Kelm said. “That’s going to touch every surface on the bus. The drivers throughout the day will also use Vital Oxide Wipes.”

Communication senior Katherine Garcia, an Aggie Spirit bus driver, said the drivers use the wipes to clean the rails and other frequently used surfaces on the bus.

“During the time allowed we’ll go ahead and clean high-touch areas around the unit, including seats,” Garcia said. “We’ll also clean the driver’s area whenever we finish our shift and pass it along to the following driver.”

Kelm said using the wipes is necessary because the effects of the weekly fogging can wear off in heat and after frequent touching, and will help with the increase in riders. Kelm said all the same transportation services will still be running full service throughout the fall semester, with an expected increase in the number of buses en route to compensate for the decreased passenger capacity.

“So on a typical day throughout the semester, on average, we’ll provide about 55,000 rides a day,” Kelm said. “That’s not necessarily 55,000 different people, it could be the same person to and from campus, back home or it could be the same person four times. Once campus and everything went online, we had between 600 and 800 rides a day, so we saw a dramatic decrease in the number of people riding the buses.”

Diana Vasquez, an Aggie Spirit bus driver since 2018, said if the number of passengers does increase, then it may become difficult for the drivers to do the additional cleaning required by Transportation Services.

“I don’t think [cleaning] should impede too much, just because we do have designated times to be in our main campus stops, waiting for passengers to load,” Vasquez said. “[What] I could foresee happening is if traffic picks back up and we don’t have much time to stay at our stops, then it could be a problem. We try to stay on schedule as much as possible.”

Garcia said as a student, the amount of cleaning that is required is very assuring.

“It actually makes me feel more comfortable doing that, because as well as being a driver and a dispatcher that also works in the office, I’m also a student at the end of the day,” Garcia said. “I can definitely understand the student perspective and it makes me feel comfortable giving them that opportunity and that feeling knowing that we do take our jobs seriously and we do wipe down the areas and disinfect the areas for everyone’s safety.”

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