COVID-19 pushes new Bloomington bus route decision to April, reduced service to match IU remote instruction period

cropped 2020-03-14 busesIMG_9018
Bloomington Transit buses head out from the downtown transit center on Saturday, March 14, 2020 (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

In a press release issued Friday,  Bloomington Transit (BT), the public bus service in Bloomington, announced that its March board meeting is cancelled. That follows the trend towards cancelling government board and commission meetings to reduce the chances of transmitting the COVID-19 pandemic virus.

The meeting cancellation will delay by a month a board decision on new routes.

During all Indiana University breaks, including spring break this year (March 15 to 22), BT buses follow a reduced schedule of operation. That’s because more than 70 percent of its riders are university affiliates.

According to Friday’s press release, even after spring break is over this year, some of BT’s university-centric bus routes will see continued reduced service. That’s because of a university decision to teach students remotely for at least two weeks (March 23 to April 5) following spring break.

According to the news release, the routes that will see reduced service after IU’s spring break are: Routes 6 Campus Shuttle, 6 Limited, 9 IU Campus, and 9 Limited. Other routes will operate normally, according to Friday’s news release.

IU’s campus bus system will continue to operate normally, according to a statement issued by the university. The university will use “heightened cleaning protocols,” according to the statement.

BT’s press release also indicates additional cleaning procedures, due to the COVID-19 virus. All buses, including BT Access, the para-transit service, will be disinfected nightly with special equipment, according to BT’s news release.

The cancellation of BT’s March board meeting means that a final decision on new route configurations won’t take place until the the next regular monthly board meeting, currently scheduled for April 21, 2020 at 5:30 p.m. at the Bloomington Transit Grimes Lane facility located at 130 W. Grimes Lane in Bloomington. The decision had been expected at the now-cancelled March 17 board meeting.

According to BT general manager Lew May, an April 21 board decision on new route configurations would still leave sufficient time to implement the new routes in August of this year.

May responded to a question from The Square Beacon about the impact on drivers for the reduced service after IU’s spring break:

Drivers affected by the service reduction on the two campus-oriented routes will have the option of taking vacation time, unpaid time off, or taking other work assignments that would pay them their normal hours at their current rate of pay. Such other work assignments would include: filling open driver work assignments created as a result of other drivers being off on sick leave, vacation, or other leave; filling open work assignments involving dispatching, training new hire driver trainees; or filling open work assignments at the downtown transit center – all of these other work assignments are contingent upon the driver having the qualifications and training to do these other assignments. In addition, we may use some to help detail buses and passenger shelters. The important takeaway from this is that drivers affected by the reduction of service on the two campus-oriented routes who wish to work during the two-week period IU class are online will have the opportunity to work their normal hours at their current rate of pay in other assignments. This information has been communicated to employees.