NAU students may have transitioned to online classes, but many still travel for jobs, groceries or accessing health services. For students and Flagstaff residents who do not have their own cars, Flagstaff’s Mountain Line bus service — which operates nine different routes throughout the Flagstaff area — remains up and running but is taking certain precautions to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
Jacki Lenners, marketing manager for Mountain Line, said there are steps that the bus service has taken to ensure safety during the pandemic. One of the changes is a temporary elimination of the bus fare.
Fares were eliminated because hand-to-hand contact is a way that infections can be spread, Lenners said, making it necessary for Mountain Line to take precautions to protect the health of passengers and drivers.
“We decided to go fare-free because handing over cash and passes are one of the biggest factors of touching,” Lenners said.
Another precaution is a change to how passengers board the bus. Lenners said passengers are asked to use the back door instead of the front to limit contact with drivers. Passengers in wheelchairs are still allowed to enter and exit through the ramps at the front of every bus.
Lenners also said Mountain Line will operate on its more limited weekend schedule, where buses often run half as frequently as they do on weekdays to protect passengers and drivers. These weekend routes according to the website can range from 40 to 60 minutes for service.
The Mountain Line website described other precautions that passengers are being asked to take, such as traveling if necessary.
“We ask people to have a purpose in riding transit, getting to and from essential jobs and asking those with other choices [of transportation] not to ride," Lenners said.
Additionally, the buses are mopped and disinfected daily and lost and found protocol has been modified so all non-valuable items will be disposed of, and valuable items such as wallets or cell phones will be turned over to the Flagstaff Police Department (FPD).
The transition to normal transit protocol such as fares and etiquette of entering and leaving the bus could happen all at once Lenners said, or the precautions brought on by the pandemic may be phased out in stages.
“It might be incremental," Lenners said. "We do not know what our elected officials are going to enforce. We are taking most of our orders from them, so that will impact how we get back to regular service.”
For the time being, all routes remain on a limited schedule. Route 10, which goes through campus, will run every 20 minutes during the weekday and every 40 minutes during weekends until the Fall 2020 semester begins.