The University of Kansas will limit capacity on their buses to 34 people per trip to adhere to safety practices on campus, according to the Protect KU plan.
Aaron Quisenberry, associate director of KU Transportation Services, explained the new capacity number comes from the amount of actual seats available on each bus. Initially, he was afraid it wasn’t going to be enough to accommodate the daily student rush.
“The compromise that was given to us was that we were approved to seat up to 34 people per trip,” Quisenberry said. “And I still thought, I just know it’s going to be jam packed, busting at the seams; we’re going to be leaving students.”
After the first week of classes, Quisenberry said ridership was down due to the large majority of students primarily having online classes mixed with the fear of using public transportation due to the coronavirus. The adjusted number of seats has not proven to be a problem.
“Every bus that I’ve seen has seats available, so we’re not even approaching the 34 number,” Quisenberry explained. “In general, maybe some folks are a little jittery to get on public transportation in and of itself just from national reports.”
Thomas Ringenbach, a freshman living on Daisy Hill, said because students have the ability to opt into online instruction, the buses aren’t as crowded as they are in a normal year.
“I’ve taken the bus like three times, and it’s been pretty empty,” Ringenbach said. “I don’t think people have to go out that much anymore because all their classes are online for the most part.”
The drivers also now have the ability to flash a “bus full” sign on the scrolling marquee on each vehicle when they reach the rider limit. In addition, there is now a plexiglass shield next to the driver as an added measure to keep them protected.
“Our bus providers [First Transit] hired extra staff that bounce around from bus to bus, and they have cleaning protocols that they work on throughout the day when the bus routes are in session,” Quisenberry said. “They obviously do a deeper cleaning when the buses come back to the bus facility to prepare for the next day.”
All drivers are equipped with wipe canisters, gloves and hand sanitizer, according to the Protect KU website. Each Sunday, the HVAC intakes and filters on each bus are cleaned in order to keep air circulation safe for riders.
“The ‘34’ number we came up with is based on the seating capacity, actual seats on our 40-foot buses,” Quisenberry said. “Some people can still stand, but it still would allow you the flexibility to not be sitting directly next to somebody.”
Transportation Services were asked if they were going to be adding buses to make up for the shortages of seats available, but explained that they were cutting money from the bus budget, not adding to it. Quisenberry explained that the bus budget is funded by the required campus fee, which is tied directly to enrollment.
Depending on the drop in enrollment this school year, which Chancellor Douglas Girod previously predicted an 8-10% drop for the 2020 fall semester, the budget for transportation is not fully funded.
As of now, all buses are running successfully at a limited capacity and are intended to run the remainder of the year as long as students are on campus.