Linn Shuttle buses keep rolling – with precautions

Scott Swanson

A Linn Shuttle bus rolls up to the stop on Kalmia, between 12th and 13th avenues. Three riders get on.

Around the corner, the Dial-a-Bus parks in front of the library.

Just a normal day for the transit operation, right?

Maybe not. First of all, driver Karen McMillen is wearing a mask. She’s not accepting money and riders are getting tickets to replace their punch tags.

“We’re doing everything we can to protect our employees here, but still provide service,” said Ken Bronson, director of the shuttle service.

Danny Bidwell, a shuttle driver and member of the Senior Center Board of Directors, which operates the shuttle service, said he’s been exercising precautions since Day 1 of the coronavirus.

“Quite honestly, when this started, I went out and bought myself my own Chlorox wipes and started wiping my bus down,” he said.

“We’re wearing masks and gloves. Every time a bus comes to a stop I’m spraying seats down with a water and bleach mixture. Handrails, everywhere anybody has touched. I wipe down my keys. I work my way all the way to the back and then back to the front. I wipe down the controls, everything.

“If I come to a stop and there’s nobody there, I grab my stuff and start cleaning.”

Bronson noted that the transit service has continued to operate as others have shut down.

“Salem and Kaiser shut down their entire system,” he said adding that came after eight employees tested positive for COVID-19. “That’s the only place in the country I’ve heard of shutting down.

“Albany and Corvallis went to a no-fare system Monday (March 30).” Those buses have rear entry doors, so riders do not have to pass by drivers, and because the colleges are not open, there are few riders, he said.

Linn Shuttle is continuing to charge the normal $1 fare each way, but it has added precautions, he said.

Each bus is sanitized when it returns to the Senior Center after a run and drivers are encouraged to wear masks, he said. Also, the 10-ride punch cards that are popular with riders are being exchanged for tickets, which drivers don’t have to handle.

Prospective riders who appear to be ill will not be allowed to board buses.

In addition, drivers aren’t accepting pennies.

“People smile and give you 100 pennies,” Bronson said. “We’re not doing that any more.

“I’m very supportive of the drivers,” he added.

Cash from buses is bagged – with gloves – for 24 hours before anybody touches it.

“We’re not allowing (riders) to bring cans on the bus – anything that’s been handled by multiple people,” Bidwell said Monday. “I had a gentleman today who was upset that he couldn’t ride with his cans.

“I have been making everybody sit at least 6 feet apart. If there’s so many on the bus that I can’t do that, I won’t let anybody else on.”

Bronson said he also wants to make sure people can get where they need to.

“We want to encourage people to ride. You can get all the way to Albany for a buck.”

The 10 regular routes to Albany, which start at 6 a.m. and run through 10 p.m., are continuing, he emphasized. That schedule is viewable at http://www.linnshuttle.com/index.php/shuttle-schedule-2.

The local in-town Shopper bus is operating on a Saturday schedule, from 9 a.m. to 4:20 p.m., viewable at http://www.linnshuttle.com/index.php/sweet-home-shopper.

Bronson noted that the local buses will often do custom drop-offs and, “if we know ahead of time, pickups.”

The Dial-a-Bus is available, particularly for seniors who want to get to grocery stores during the early-morning senior shopping hours.

“We want to keep the coverage so everyone who is using the system for work, in particular, can get to and from work,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to work through this.

“By keeping all routes running, it helps with social distancing, so there’s a lot of room on every route. We enforce that.”

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