Crowded buses raise COVID-19 fears

Coronavirus

More people are riding the bus again as more restrictions on Oahu are lifted. And that’s raising safety concerns among passengers and drivers.

City buses have been on holiday schedule since the lockdown started in March. The company that runs The Bus says it will stay on that lighter schedule through at least August. But will add more buses to the routes that are especially busy.

Riders and bus drivers have contacted KHON2 because crowded buses are becoming more frequent. While everyone is wearing masks, as required, they’re still afraid of getting COVID-19.

Oahu Transit Services showed a graph of bus ridership dropping since the lockdown to less than 60,000 passengers per week, which is about 30% of the norm. And it has steadily gone up for over a month.

“Since then, we have been creeping up every week up to about 40%, so we’re slowly increasing,” said Roger Morton, Oahu Transit Services general manager.

OTS says it is using technology called Dynamic Scheduling to help monitor which buses are running full and when. So they have started to add more buses to those routes.

“As of last Friday we’ve added probably another eight buses into service, last Friday, to busy routes, Route 1, Route 2, Route 3,” said Morton.

Morton expects ridership to keep going up, but he says it wouldn’t make sense to go back to the full schedule. By using technology and more people to monitor the buses, they can add buses on an hourly basis as needed.

“So what we found is we actually get more trips per hour by doing this than we do with a regular schedule, and it works very well. So we’ve expanded that to five busy routes, we may add a couple more,” said Morton.

Morton says ideally, buses should have no more than 28 passengers at a time, 38 for the longer, articulated buses. Some of those busy routes have been exceeding those limits. But he says the company will do more to prevent that.

“We are gonna prioritize the resources that we have. It’s very likely that we will continue to add buses and service to those busy busy lines,” said Morton.

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