UMass Transit reducing bus schedule after shift to remote learning

Buses will follow certain standards to limit spread of coronavirus

UMass Transit reducing bus schedule after shift to remote learning

By Will Mallas, Assistant News Editor

The University of Massachusetts Transportation Services is limiting bus runs on campus following concerns of coronavirus and the campus’s shift to remote learning.

According to the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority website, “effective on Monday [March 23], service will continue to operate, but will end each night around 9 p.m. (until further notice).” Routes 30 and 31 have reduced service, and routes 45 and 46 have reduced service on weekdays. Route 35 is operating on a “weekend/holiday service” seven days per week, and route 38 is operating on a winter session schedule with no service on Sundays.  Route 33 is operating with full service, while routes 34, 36 and 39 have stopped operating.

In addition, Route B43, which travels from UMass to Smith College, is operating on a full-service schedule with the last bus leaving Haigis Mall at 11:45 on Thursday and Friday and ending at 12:30 a.m. on Saturday. The route is operating with “regular Sunday service.”

The R29, which travels from the UMass to the Holyoke Mall, will provide full service throughout the week.

PVTA buses travelling in the Northampton and Springfield areas are running on reduced schedules as well. Among several routes seeing reduced schedules, The Loop, which travels from Union Station and passes through MGM Springfield, the Basketball Hall of Fame, the Quadrangle and La Quinta Inn, has not been operating as of March 18.

General Manager of Transportation Services Glenn Barrington said in an email that the department has “enough drivers to cover shifts to run reduced service schedules,” but is planning on holding a summer training program.

The limited schedule comes after UMass’s transition to remote learning for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19. The other members of the Five College Consortium have also shifted to remote learning, resulting in a reduced demand for busing.

Barrington also noted that UMass Transit is implementing changes to ensure the health and safety of passengers amidst the coronavirus pandemic. An update on the UMass coronavirus response page lists some of the precautions being taken.

“Buses are cleaned thoroughly every night using a strong EPA-approved disinfectant solution to help curb the spread of coronavirus,” the page reads. “Like most other workplaces, the majority of our non-essential staff are working remotely.”

UMass Transit is also urging passengers to use the rear doors for entering and exiting the bus, with exceptions to passengers with disabilities. Passengers are also being asked to “sit in alternate rows, away from other riders,” and to not approach the driver or any other passengers while on board.

Based on CDC guidelines, passengers have been asked to avoid using the bus when ill and to maintain “appropriate distance away” from other people on the bus.

During a press conference Monday, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker urged residents to refrain from using public transit.

“By limiting the use of public transportation to essential services and activities, we can not only limit the spread of the virus but better protect our healthcare workers, our grocery store workers and others who are working every day to keep us safe,” Baker said.

Will Mallas can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @willmallas.