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IndyGo changes course in response to COVID-19

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Update: As of May 4, IndyGo has resumed taking fares after plexiglass barriers were installed in all buses April 30.

To keep drivers and riders safe through the COVID-19 pandemic, IndyGo is no longer collecting fares and now requires rear-entrance boarding on buses. These measures are in place to enforce social distancing while continuing to get essential workers to their jobs. 

Several weeks ago, IndyGo began operating on its Saturday route schedule seven days a week, running on reduced hours. In addition, the Julia M. Carson Transit Center is closed to the public, and fares are not taken to reduce a gathering of people at the front of the bus. Each bus is cleaned throughout the day and every night, said Lesley Gordon, director of public relations and partnerships for IndyGo. 

In a webcast with the Recorder on April 23, IndyGo president and CEO Inez Evans said the company is considering installing plexiglas at the front of buses to further protect drivers. 

While a shortened schedule throughout the day increases the number of people needing a ride at one time, Gordon said IndyGo takes steps to ensure there is more than one bus to accommodate riders. 

“One thing we have done to address [overcrowding] is that we are doing booster buses,” Gordon said. “It’s an implemented system and something that we evaluate … and, if needed, we can deploy an additional bus to help with that capacity.”

During their routes, drivers wear masks and have access to gloves if they want them. Gordan said riders are also encouraged to practice social distancing as much as possible while riding. As of April 23, 170 of the 870 IndyGo staff members are taking leave to care for themselves and their families. According to Evans, this understaffing may force the company to go to its Sunday schedule, which includes fewer routes.

Kimberly Williams is an essential worker in the food industry. She takes the bus five times a week to get to work, and she takes precautions to limit her exposure.

“It’s usually not that bad for me, but I avoid taking the popular routes because they can be overcrowded,” she said.

While Williams feels fairly safe riding the bus during the pandemic, she recently started wearing a mask on the bus to further limit her risk.

While there are many questions surrounding when the state will reopen and go back to business as usual, IndyGo does not plan to resume normal operations immediately after Gov. Eric Holcomb decides to reopen Indiana. 

“We will continue operating on that Saturday service,” Gordon said. “Mostly because we have a number of employees eligible for leave through the CARE Act, and we have to monitor staffing to make sure that our staff can stay home if they’re sick or need to watch their kids. We need that flexibility.”

While the need for IndyGo may be greater after the state reopens, due to more people going to work, Gordon said a partnership with the ride service company Uber will help people get where they need to go at a discounted rate.

“We have an Uber partnership for essential workers,” Gordon said. “They would be eligible for subsidized rides, one round trip, that they call in to schedule.”

There is a $60 flat monthly fee for the Uber service, so riders can take an Uber to get to work every day if they work outside of IndyGo’s hours of operation. The partnership is scheduled to go through the end of May, so Gordon recommends registering for the program now.

“We just hope people understand that we’re trying to maintain service for essential workers and important day-to-day trips while keeping everyone safe,” Gordon said. “We ask that everyone continue to practice safety, and we encourage riders to wear masks if possible, and to spread out as much as possible on the bus.”

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

IndyGo operators now wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Photo provided)

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