The statewide stay-at-home order that took effect Thursday in Colorado says people can use public transit to travel to necessary activities. As of Friday, Durango Transit continued to operate, saying it seems like most people are following the new restrictions, but it is difficult to know for sure.
Durango Transit buses, which some might see as hubs for the virus, will continue to provide the service, according to the city.
“We still have a very transit-dependent population, and we want to make sure that they have options to get to those essential places,” said Sarah Dodson, acting director of transportation for the city of Durango.
In Durango, about 78% of bus riders are entirely dependent on public transit to get around, according to a May 2019 survey.
“Our passengers seem to be honoring the stay-at-home order by only using transit to access essential services and employment,” Dodson said.
Rider numbers have dropped, which, to Dodson, indicates compliance with the order. On Thursday, the transit service had about 460 rides on its loop routes, while on the same day last year it gave about 1,030 rides, she said.
The Opportunity Bus, a door-to-door service for seniors and people with disabilities, has seen the most significant reduction and trip cancellations – now down to one or two rides per day.
Although fewer riders are traveling, it is a challenge to make sure people are using the bus for only necessary trips, Dodson said.
Necessary travel, defined by the state order, includes activities like caring for a family member or vulnerable person, buying necessary food or medicine, or going to work.
“The only people we are refusing rides to are those who are displaying COVID-type symptoms, such as coughing and sneezing, and are not taking preventive measures,” Dodson said.
Even with fewer riders, the new coronavirus can still spread through respiratory droplets in the air or stay on surfaces for up to 72 hours.
That’s why the transit department has steadily increased its public health safety measures in compliance with local and state directives, Dodson said.
For example, drivers wipe down and sanitize hand rails, windows, arm rests and other high-contact surfaces about 12 times a day. Buses get a thorough cleaning three or four times a day, and upholstery is cleaned after every shift, she said.
The service will stop running under only three circumstances: the public safety risk to drivers and passengers becomes too great; Durango Transit no longer has the ability to provide the service; or other public health orders require it to suspend service.
Durango Transit does not plan to suspend service in the short term, and directors continue to re-evaluate daily as the COVID-19 response changes, Dodson said.
“We are ready to implement closures if necessary,” she said. “We are doing our best to meet the transit needs of the community while taking this situation very seriously.”