Monday, March 20, 2023

OUT Buses Get COVID-19 Safety Upgrades for Fall

Oxford University Transit has resumed full operations, and those traveling to the University of Mississippi campus this fall will find several new safeguards in place on OUT buses to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

An Oxford-University Transit bus arrives at the transportation hub in front at Kennon Observatory on the Ole Miss campus. Riders are required to wear a mask at all times, including while waiting at a crowded bus shelter and while riding. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Most normal routes are operating on a full schedule, but the experience will be a little different for those riding for the first time in a while when the fall semester begins. Riders will encounter many upgrades to meet guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies for preventing the spread of illness. Seating capacity is limited on all buses.

Riders must be seated – no standing-room rides – to allow for social distancing, which could affect some arrival times. Sam Patterson, UM director of parking and transportation, urges the Ole Miss community to plan for these changes when returning to campus for the fall semester.

“There’s definitely going to be fewer people allowed on the shuttles,” Patterson said. “They’ve added Plexiglas between the seating areas to prevent germs from spreading, and there is hand sanitizer in convenient spots.

“What we really want people to also know is that you should plan head accordingly since there will no longer be standing room inside the buses.”

The Rebel Red campus circulator shuttle will not operate this fall. The Rebel Blue campus circulator shuttle will run with two buses for more consistent service. Riders who previously used the Rebel Red bus stop locations should find their closest Rebel Blue stop. New signage is being posted to reflect these changes.

Riders are required to wear masks at all times while waiting at crowded bus shelters and while riding buses. Riders should allow at least 6 feet of clearance for arriving buses to let riders disembark before approaching to board a bus.

Plexiglass has been installed to help stop the spread of airborne germs, and no riders will be allowed to stand, so they can spread out. Seating capacity is limited on buses, so riders are urged to leave a little earlier than they normally would to allow for new protection measures, which could affect ride times.

Buses run every 10 minutes, so it might be wise to add 10-20 minutes to your first few trips to campus, said Hal Robinson, UM manager of parking and transportation.

Robinson encourages students, faculty and staff to take advantage of the buses, which go well above the industry standards for sanitizing, he said.

“All OUT buses are equipped with hand sanitizer dispensers and are cleaned regularly and disinfected,” Robinson said. “At the end of each day, buses are fogged with a heavy, hospital grade disinfectant. It sits overnight and it goes well beyond industry standard cleaning power.”

Ole Miss and OUT officials remind anyone experiencing COVID-19 or other flu-like symptoms not to ride buses.

Donna Zampella, OUT general manager, said he and his staff are excited about another academic year of serving locals, students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus.

“We have worked hard to ensure all our passengers are safe from any virus lurking around,” Zampella said. “We are preparing to run routes as we did last year and encourage our passengers to arrive early to their stop to avoid waiting. All passengers must be seated, which means we will have limited space available.

“We have eight brand-new buses this year and will be rolling out our new GPS system within the next week.”

Zampella encourages anyone with questions about riding OUT to visit its website  or call 662-234-3540.

By Michael Newsom