ASUM Transportation started on-demand service for one of its UDASH bus routes on April 3, the agency’s latest change in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new service will require more frequent disinfection and include modified bus schedules.

Jordan Hess, ASUM Transportation’s director, said some employees left voluntarily, but the agency has made no other staffing changes and plans to keep all student employees through the semester.

Sam Severson, a UDASH driver, said the changes started after spring break. He said his hours were cut back a little, but it’s understandable. 

“We used to get 60 or so on a round on the bus, but now there’s hardly anyone,” Severson said.

Drivers may also wait outside for the previous driver to get off the bus before boarding to avoid contact, Severson said.

ASUM Transportation introduced new policies, like requiring passengers to board through the rear door except when the front door ramp is needed, on March 23. Drivers are also encouraged to wear gloves, and passengers are asked only to make essential trips and not ride if sick, according to Hess. 

“On a normal day, we would measure our success by ridership,” Hess said. “We’re doing the opposite now. We’re making sure we aren’t having too many people.”

Daily ridership, counted as the number of times a person boards a bus, has fallen from as many as 2,000 to less than 50, Hess said.

The Red Line between campus and the Lewis and Clark Village has reduced the frequency of buses to every half hour on weekdays and ends at 7:15 p.m. rather than 10:45 p.m., according to the agency’s website. The Gold Line to downtown suspended service.

The Green Line to Missoula College switched to an on-demand service due to low ridership, according to Hess. An accessible van serves the route and is sanitized after each use.

Students can request a ride on the Green Line between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. by calling or texting (844) 983-2749, according to the agency’s website. They must answer a COVID-19 symptoms questionnaire when they call.

If a student has symptoms, they will be directed to a transport service for people going for testing or who have tested positive for the virus. ASUM Transportation would deal with sickness other than COVID-19 on a case by case basis and provide service when possible, Hess said.

ASUM Transportation increased the frequency of bus cleanings starting March 9, according to Hess. He said buses are sanitized every two hours rather than at the end of the day, especially high-touch surfaces like handrails and pull cords.

The agency had also started cleaning buses once a day with the University Center’s electrostatic spray gun, which gives disinfectant a static charge so it clings to surfaces like upholstery. The device broke and is awaiting replacement parts that are in high demand, according to Larry McElravy, the University Center’s associate director. 

As an essential service, Hess said ASUM Transportation plans to continue operating through the pandemic.

Missoula’s bus system, Mountain Line, provided an accessible van for the testing transportation, which emergency services operate, according to Mountain Line spokesperson Shanti Johnson.

Mountain Line sanitizes its buses at least twice a day and reduces the frequency of buses on most of its routes, according to Johnson.

On April 8, Mountain Line suspended service for Route One, connecting campus to downtown and Southgate Mall, which other routes will cover. It also suspended Route Eight on March 27, which UDASH’s Purple Line covers from campus to Russell Street.

Mountain Line is not planning any other changes, Johnson said. Both bus systems are free and open to the public.