The Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (AC Transit) recently unveiled the reNEW Plan, its multi-pronged action plan outlining the transit district’s commitments to onboard Health & Wellness; Service & Operations; Communications & Engagement; and technical Innovations for recovery.
“For 60 years, AC Transit has been the transit choice in the East Bay,” says AC Transit Board President Joe Wallace. “We have weathered earthquakes, social unrest, and even a global recession through sound planning. Our reNEW Plan joins that tradition of planning excellence by demonstrating how AC Transit is working around the clock to restore full service and confidence, without compromising health and safety.”
The reNEW Plan goes beyond the minimum standards of the 30-member Bay Area Blue Ribbon Transit Recovery Task Force – a Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) initiative to guide the future of the Bay Area’s public transportation network, as we all adapt to the pandemic – by deploying these demonstrable upgrades.
The first key reNEW advancement is free onboard personal protective equipment (PPE) for AC Transit riders. California’s Public Health Officer and Director, Dr. Sonia Angell, issued a mandate for the use of face coverings for riders while waiting for or riding on public transportation or paratransit. Hand hygiene is also an integral component in the fight to combat the transmission of COVID-19. If soap and water are not readily available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends transit riders use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol (also referred to as ethanol or ethyl alcohol).
Using this public health guidance, AC Transit has launched the rollout of free facemasks and hand sanitizer dispensers for riders.
AC Transit has chosen three-ply breathable masks that are non-toxic, non-irritating, and feature a soft nosepiece and elastic ear loop, which makes each masks easy to wear. They are also besting CDC guidance by offering riders 70% ethyl alcohol-based foaming hand sanitizer. They have selected an FDA approved hand sanitizer that kills 99.999% of germs within 15 seconds.
Facemasks and hand sanitizer dispensers are affixed to the modesty panel, at the rear door on most of their fleet, with the exception of the 60-foot articulated buses; on these coaches, riders will find the dispensers located near the middle doors.
AC Transit riders are reminded the blue-side of the mask should be worn on the outside and the nose clip always faces the upper side of the mask.
The initial rollout of PPE dispenser equipped buses will begin service Tuesday, September 15, 2020 with expected completion of the entire fleet by Friday, October 16, 2020.
Onboard physical distancing of at least 6 feet
The CDC finds that COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) for a prolonged period. Since people can spread the virus before they know they are sick, AC Transit will continue to follow county public health guidelines to stay at least 6 feet away from others whenever possible, even if you — or others — do not have any symptoms. Social distancing is especially important for people who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
It is important to note, county physical distancing ordinances require AC Transit to limit the number of riders. For a healthier trip, please check the bus capacity signs on the doors and remember to add a little extra time to your commute.
Additional buses are waiting on standby to accommodate rider overflow created by bus capacity limitations.
Filtered and cleaner air onboard
Ac Transit has installed the highest filtration allowed on their buses by the HVAC manufacturer. The new and upgraded high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are rated MERV-7, which means each bus removes particulate matter as small as 3.0 micrometers.
AC Transit’s safety experts have also conducted a series of tests to examine the flow of air on board our buses. They tested ventilation conditions with windows open and closed, with and without HVAC, and the use of the roof hatches; the test results unequivocally concluded that any open window disrupts the indoor air quality.
By keeping all windows closed, new air filters, and the HVAC system, create a powerful air vacuum forcing old onboard air out and circulating fresh filtered air every minute and 20 seconds.
Installation of upgraded HEPA filters is now complete across their fleet.
Bus Operator Shields to fight the spread of coronavirus
In the wake of COVID-19, it was then essential to create a protective barrier to help safeguard Bus Operators as riders’ board and while the bus is in service. They did not have to look for a remedy. AC Transit’s ingenious mechanics, in concert with the Bus Operators Safety Committee, conceived, designed, and are now installing Bus Operator Protective Shields.
The Protective Shields surround the driver’s compartment and are made of polycarbonate or Lexan glass. They have chosen Lexan glass that is 3/16” thick and proven more durable than the acrylic, polyamides (nylons), polystyrene (PS) plastics, and several other materials now commonly used by retailers and restaurants. Lexan glass is virtually unbreakable and half the weight half of glass, which means they can add protection without compromising the efficiency of the bus.
Most importantly, the Lexan glass shields help limit the spread of airborne droplets from coughing, sneezing, or speaking from reaching the Bus Operator, ultimately helping to mitigate any potential transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
The full fleet of 640 buses will be outfitted with Lexan glass shields by October 16, 2020.
Onboard anti-viral sprayers and foggers
AC Transit launched protocols of enhanced daily disinfecting of high-touch areas, within hours of the initial activation of shelter-in-place orders. Their crews clean ceilings, windows, ledges, walls, floors, stanchions, and entry/exit-way grab rails, pull cords, stop buttons, and fareboxes.
They have since advanced onboard disinfecting and cleaning protocols to include nightly disinfecting of every bus in the fleet, using 30 electrostatic foggers and backpack sprayers. AC Transit invested considerable research before selecting EPA approved anti-viral disinfectant, proven to kill the COVID-19 virus while being safer and gentler than bleach.
For more information on AC Transit’s reNEW Plan and COVID-19 updates, please visit www.actransit.org.