County considers increasing Summit Stage to 50% capacity
KEYSTONE — As part of Summit County’s move into the safer-at-home phase of novel coronavirus response, the Summit Stage bus system allowed for 10 people at a time, a capacity restriction that has left some riders with longer wait times.
At Tuesday’s joint Board of Health and Summit Board of County Commissioners meeting, County Manager Scott Vargo brought up the Summit Stage issues and tasked county officials with developing a new plan for the bus system.
If approved by the Board of Health at its next meeting on Tuesday, June 30, the Summit Stage will increase its capacity from 20% to 50%, Assistant County Manager Bentley Henderson said in an interview.
When the county first issued a stay-at-home order, transit services were limited to call-in rides. As the county moved into the safer-at-home phase, the Summit Stage slowly expanded its services. Now, it is running nearly all routes.
Since they started running again, Summit Stage buses have been limited to a 20% capacity or up to 10 people, whichever is fewer. With that restriction, some riders were left at stops to wait for a “chase car” to come give them a ride when the bus was at capacity. That system worked while the buses were still running limited routes. Now that it’s nearly all open, the county doesn’t have the employees to meet the chase car demands, Henderson said.
“That was the primary motivation to get in front of the Board of Health and to look for alternatives to increase capacity for people on the bus,” he said.
The 20% limit is in line with guidance from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Since it is guidance and not a mandate, the county is able to increase the capacity, Vargo said at the meeting. The increase will most likely come in the form of a public health order. The county’s current safer-at-home order expires on June 30.
“We have the ability within our local public health order to identify something else in terms of what we would want as a restriction,” Vargo said at the meeting. “Or we could leave it out entirely and it would be open for whatever people wanted to do. I don’t know if I would advocate for that, but rather ratcheting up from 20% to 50%, whatever it may be.”
At the meeting, Public Health Director Amy Wineland said she’s supportive of increasing the capacity.
“I think we’re feeling pretty comfortable since we’re requiring masks and that would allow us to increase the capacity of the buses,” she said.
Wineland said it would also be helpful to open the windows of the buses to increase airflow so the virus doesn’t linger in the buses.
Henderson said he hopes to have the Board of Health approve the increase in capacity before the Fourth of July weekend to accommodate for an influx of visitors.
“Fortunately, if we can get this in front of the board of health before then we will be able to accommodate the greater number of passengers,” he said. “If we have to modify our request or do some changes to it we might end up getting pushed out to beyond the Fourth. Our goal is to try to turn this around as quickly as possible.”
Bus driver Deann Quintana said she hasn’t noticed increased demand on her routes, but has heard about it from other drivers.
“We’re starting to get a little bit more busy because so many people are in town,” she said.
In addition to the limits on bus capacity, the Summit Stage also requires passengers to wear face coverings or masks and maintain a 6-foot distance from other riders. To do that, the buses have marked off certain seats with orange tape to discourage people from sitting close to each other.
The county plans to continue those requirements on the bus systems. Some seats may continue to be blocked off as well to ensure social distancing, Henderson said.
“If you talk to the public health folks the utilization of face coverings is determined to be a significant deterrent in the spread of the virus,” he said.
Besides a couple of instances where people had to be reminded to wear a face covering, there have been few issues in terms of the Summit Stage rules, Henderson said.
“We have had a very robust compliance,” he said.
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