GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Despite continued concerns over close contact spreading coronavirus, The Rapid plans to return to allowing full capacity on buses next week.
Right now, Rapid buses are carrying about 60% of its regular ridership. That’s about 15 people per bus.
The decision is bound to have some scratching their heads, as public health officials continue to promote social distancing as a key ingredient in the fight to keep COVID-19 at bay.
“We’re about 60 to 65% down from what our typical ridership is. So, if we were seeing crowded buses and we had concerns about the buses really filling up, we wouldn’t be lifting the capacity,” said Bill Kirk, business affairs specialist with The Rapid.
“But at this time, it’s partly, ya know, we want to make sure we can still get people to work and get people to their medical appointments. But for the time being, we’re confident in our cleaning procedures.”
Masks will still be mandatory. The transportation system is increasing the frequency of some of its busiest routes.
“Some of our routes that have been running once an hour are going to be running every half hour. So, every route in our system during the day will run at least every 15 minutes or every half hour,” Kirk said.
He says another key to keeping buses safe is their cleaning procedures. The buses are disinfected every night. Crews also wipe down high contact areas between runs.
The Rapid is also trying out a new, more permanent antimicrobial that’s applied just once a year.
“We’ll be testing it more often than not. But that will kill bacteria on contact,” he said.
Those changes to capacity rules also impact the recently launched Laker Line, used primarily to transport Grand Valley State University students between the Allendale and the downtown campus.
While no outbreaks have been reported at Grand Valley, other schools have experienced increased COVID-19 infection rates.
Kirk says The Rapid has been working with GVSU officials to protect the Laker Line as well.
“I think with their safety measures that they have in place and the education that they’ve been providing to their students, we’re confident that folds will do their part,” Kirk said.
“And that’s a big part of this as well. We have a mask requirement on all of our service. So, we really need folks to wear masks to keep themselves safe and to keep other passengers and our operators safe. It’s going to take everybody working together,” he said.
Kirk says The Rapid will continue to monitor ridership and adjust as necessary if they find COVID-19 related problems on routes.