Bloomington public bus driver tests positive for COVID-19, BT still on course for closer-to-normal service on Aug. 24

In a press release issued late Monday afternoon, the city announced that a Bloomington Transit (BT) bus driver has tested positive for COVID-19.

croppped 2020-07-22 inside a bloomington transit bus IMG_5461
The caution tape separating drivers from passengers on Bloomington Transit buses will soon be replaced with plexiglass shields.

That’s the second BT employee who has tested positive for the pandemic disease. The first was a maintenance worker. Nine other city employees have also tested positive.

According to Monday’s release, the driver started having symptoms on Wednesday, July 29 and received the positive result on Saturday, Aug. 1. For Saturday, Monroe County’s total COVID-19 confirmed positive case count was 10.

The seven-day average daily case count in Monroe County has started to drop—it’s now around around 13, compared to 20 for the last week of July. The number of cases reported for Sunday was just 2, the lowest number since July 6, almost a month ago.

In July, the BT board approved a plan to resume certain aspects of normal service starting Aug. 24. Continue reading “Bloomington public bus driver tests positive for COVID-19, BT still on course for closer-to-normal service on Aug. 24”

Bloomington public buses roll fare-free through COVID-19 towards fall, with Uber as backup plan, same general manager in driver’s seat

Lew May will be staying on board for another year as general manager of Bloomington Transit.

The five-member board expressed relief at the news at their meeting on Tuesday night—May has been contemplating retirement.

Board member Kent McDaniel said, “We’re lucky to have Lew and I’m glad he’s willing to stay for another year.” The board approved May’s contract extension on a unanimous vote.

May gave two reasons he wants to stay on. First, he wants to stay on through the implementation of the planned new routes, originally scheduled for this fall, but delayed due to uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Second he wants to get Bloomington Transit back on its feet after the pandemic. “To me those are two important things that I would not like to just hand off to the next manager,” May said.

Much of Tuesday’s meeting was focused on various issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. A maintenance staffer tested positive for COVID-19, the city announced in a press issued last week.

No additional employees have tested positive, according to May. But as a contingency, the board authorized the eventual signing of a contract with Uber. Under that contract, Uber would provide transportation service, if so many drivers test positive that the BT bus fleet can’t be operated.

Amid uncertainty about the number of Indiana University students who’ll be returning to campus and where they’ll live, the board OK’d an addendum to BT’s current contract with IU to get through July and August. That’s an alternative to trying to negotiate the renewal of the contract for the whole year, which would typically be done around now. About 70 percent of BT’s ridership typically comes from IU affiliates.

The board also green-lighted a return to service levels that are close to normal, starting Aug. 24. That’s when the time-and-half hazard pay will end for drivers and front-door boarding will start again. All riders will continue to board fare-free.

Continue reading “Bloomington public buses roll fare-free through COVID-19 towards fall, with Uber as backup plan, same general manager in driver’s seat”

Bloomington public bus ridership starts to claw back a bit from COVID-19 impacts

REVISED R Output Monthly BT ridership for COVID report May 19JUNE 16 OUTPUT

Last month the Bloomington Transit (BT) board got clear look at the impact the COVID-19 pandemic was having on fix-route bus ridership. The April numbers were down about 90 percent from April a year ago.

On Tuesday, the May monthly ridership numbers reported at BT’s board meeting  were still dramatically down from the same month a year ago—34,256 rides this May compared to 133,798 in May of 2019.

But that’s a 74-percent drop—which reflects an improvement compared to last month, even if a small one. Continue reading “Bloomington public bus ridership starts to claw back a bit from COVID-19 impacts”

Bloomington Transit board OKs shift to slightly bigger gear related to COVID-19 reopening

At its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday night, the five-member Bloomington Transit board approved a two-phase reopening plan for public bus service in the city.

The plan sets June 1 as the date when something closer to a normal summer break schedule will resume.

Public buses in Bloomington have still been running during the state’s COVID-19 emergency orders, but using a modified Saturday schedule every day. That reduces the number of service hours by about half compared to normal levels this time of year.

Schedules are posted on BT’s website. Realtime bus locations, when they are running, are available through the mobile app DoubleMap.

During the first phase of BT’s reopening plan, passengers can continue to ride the bus fare-free and board through the rear door. Through the first phase, drivers will continue to receive time-and-a-half hazard pay. Continue reading “Bloomington Transit board OKs shift to slightly bigger gear related to COVID-19 reopening”

COVID-19 means Bloomington Transit holds most new routes in limbo, gives hazard pay to drivers, still looks on sunny side

At its meeting on Tuesday night, Bloomington Transit’s board voted unanimously to approve just one of the new routes that had emerged from a study done by a consultant last year.

The collection of newly designed routes, optimized to increase readership, was presented to the public at meetings held last year in November and December.

The one new route approved by the board will be named Route 2 West 17th Street, replacing the old one called Route 2 West 11th Street via Showers Complex. It will start service later this year on Aug. 24.

The reason for the delayed decision on other routes, until some undetermined future time, is the uncertainty caused by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. At whatever point a decision is made on the other routes, implementation is not expected before January 2021. Continue reading “COVID-19 means Bloomington Transit holds most new routes in limbo, gives hazard pay to drivers, still looks on sunny side”

Bloomington Transit board likely to put off decision on new routes, delay implementation until January 2021

At its next scheduled board meeting on April 21, the Bloomington Transit (BT) board is likely to postpone a decision on new routes for the public transit agency, which were originally planned for implementation in August of this year.

The staff’s recommended postponement is based on the impact of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The reason was described in a Friday email message to transit advocates from Zac Huneck, BT’s planning and special projects manager: “We believe introducing major service changes would add an unnecessary burden to our already strained operations.”

Heck’s email message said staff are looking at January 2021 for starting service on the newly designed routes, which are meant to increase ridership by increasing frequency and on-time performance, while maintaining about the same number of service hours. Continue reading “Bloomington Transit board likely to put off decision on new routes, delay implementation until January 2021”

Bloomington Transit still on path to April 21 decision on optimized routes for fall, service continues under COVID-19 curtailments, diminished ridership

In January, Bloomington Transit’s board got some good news. The 3.16 million rides taken on fixed route buses in 2019 reflected a 1.75-percent increase over the total from 2018.

It was the first year-to-year increase since 2014, after four straight years of decreases.

But due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s already apparent that the numbers for 2020 almost certainly won’t continue the upward trend. The roughly 180,000 rides taken in March this year reflect just about 60 percent of the the usual ridership, based on the last five years worth of data.

The first half of the month showed fairly normal ridership. But after Indiana University announced that spring break would be extended a week, then cancelled in-person instruction for the rest of the semester, ridership evaporated. Normally Indiana University affiliates—students, faculty and staff—make up about 70 percent of Bloomington Transit (BT) riders.

In the fourth week of March this year, just 8,437 rides were taken on fixed route buses. That’s about 10 percent of the 79,552 rides that were taken last year in the same week. By the end of April, BT ridership could already be down 400,000 rides or more, compared to last year. Continue reading “Bloomington Transit still on path to April 21 decision on optimized routes for fall, service continues under COVID-19 curtailments, diminished ridership”

COVID-19 means fare-free Bloomington buses for now, rear-door entry preferred

annotated cropped 2020-03-23 rear door bloomington transit bus IMG_9274

Over the weekend, Bloomington’s public bus agency, announced that its downtown transit center’s indoor waiting area would be closed starting Monday (today), because of concerns about transmission of the COVID-19 pandemic virus.

The downtown transit center’s closure eliminated one option that passengers had for paying the $1 fare for Bloomington Transit buses—sales of bus tokens at the customer service desk inside the center.

Now, the task of buying fare media for public buses in Bloomington has been eliminated, at least for the time being.

Bloomington transit issued a press release on Monday announcing that fares would be eliminated on fixed route and BT Access buses “until further notice.” BT Access is the bus agency’s para-transit service. Continue reading “COVID-19 means fare-free Bloomington buses for now, rear-door entry preferred”

Indoor waiting area closed at Bloomington downtown transit center due to COVID-19, some buses running on reduced schedule

In a press release issued Sunday evening, the city of Bloomington announced that the indoor waiting room of Bloomington Transit’s downtown center would be closed starting Monday, March 23, until further notice.

As the reason for the closure, the press release cites concerns about transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

In an earlier press release, issued last week, Bloomington’s public transit agency announced that some buses would be running on a reduced schedule, even after the conclusion of Indiana’s spring break.

That’s because Indiana University has closed its dormitories due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and cancelled in-person instruction for the rest of the semester. Students are to be taught using remote platforms. Continue reading “Indoor waiting area closed at Bloomington downtown transit center due to COVID-19, some buses running on reduced schedule”

Bloomington issues COVID-19 update for buses, utilities customer service

Late Friday, the city of Bloomington issued press releases about the way that public bus service  and utilities customer service will be altered starting next week, to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most Bloomington Transit buses will continue to run next week on their normal schedule. But the suspension of Indiana University classes means that BT will offer no service on Routes 7, 6-Limited and 9-Limited through March 29.

Routes 6 and 9 will continue operating on the university’s semester break schedules through March 29. BT Access, the agency’s para-transit service, will operate normally.

For water and sewer customers, the city of Bloomington utilities (CBU) customer service office on Miller Drive will be closed to walk-in service. According to the release, customers can still call (812) 349-3930 or send an email message to utilities.cs@bloomington.in.gov Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. The after-hours number is (812) 339-1444. Continue reading “Bloomington issues COVID-19 update for buses, utilities customer service”