County Supervisors Push Free Bus Rides
Passengers could use side door, away from bus drivers, to protect them from getting virus.
Seven Milwaukee County Board members are proposing to make bus service free for at least three weeks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The supervisors sent a letter to County Executive Chris Abele Monday asking for his support of the measure. In the letter they say that making transit service free will allow riders to use the side door near the middle of the bus, so bus drivers can reduce exposure to the public during the pandemic.
They write, “allowing passengers to enter through the side door will allow the safety drivers need to keep passengers away from the fare box/driver area” The supervisors hope that at the end of the three weeks, bus drivers will have “the appropriate protective gear in order to continue bus services safely.”
Last week it was confirmed that an MCTS bus operator tested positive and was treated for COVID-19. Dan Boehm, managing director of MCTS, told reporters that they were working with the City of Milwaukee health department to identify what other drivers shared a bus with the individual.
Boehm also said the health department reviewed the plastic shield by the driver’s chair and said they were not worried about contact between the drivers and the public.
Still, the shield has been a point of contention long before the COVID-19 pandemic. It was an issue that repeatedly came up during negotiations between the Amalgamated Transit Union 998 and MCTS. Union leaders and members criticized the shield, saying it did little to protect the drivers. However, they weren’t talking about an infectious disease at that point, but about attacks on bus operators by passengers.
MCTS has already reduced bus service in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Service is currently following a schedule patterned after the one used on Saturdays in normal times. Abele has said the system has already seen a “dramatic reduction in ridership” since the onset of the coronavirus.
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