‘Dynamic scheduling’ key to ensuring city bus passengers can socially distance

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Updated: Jun. 8, 2020 at 5:56 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - TheBus used to carry up to 200,000 passengers a day. With the stay-at-home order, that number dropped to 57,000.

But it’s going back up.

"We've seen almost a continuous weekly increase," Oahu Transit Services president Roger Morton said.

Ridership is now up to about 75,000 a day.

“That’s still 40% of where we were, but the trend is definitely toward increasing,” Morton said.

He expects bigger bumps when schools are back in session and tourism returns. To help maintain rider room for social distancing, OTS relies on a GPS tracking system called Dynamic Scheduling.

"That's how on our busy routes that we can try to keep our loads within a reasonable number," Morton said. "We try to shoot for between 20 to 28 passengers maximum."

The max load is 30 to 38 riders for the bigger articulated buses.

When passenger loads rise, Dynamic Scheduling helps dispatchers determine whether to insert more buses into the busy routes or shorten the space between the existing buses to reduce wait times.

"If the bus is full and they choose not to ride it, at least this way they'll know there's another bus coming behind them relatively shortly," said John Donovan, OTS field operations manager.

The company is also evaluating other alternatives if buses get too crowded.

"We could put a sign up that says the bus is full from a social distancing point of view and the rider could make their own choice," Morton said.

TheBus will continue to fog its fleet daily to disinfect buses, and it’s evaluating a different sanitizing product that creates a barrier against bacteria.

“The idea is you put a shield on surfaces that can give you protection for up to 90 days,” Morton said.

TheBus may also install permanent shields to protect drivers from viruses and other dangers.

OTS reminds customers the offer that allowed riders to use April bus passes in May has expired. Prices are back at full fare.

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