START bus riders used to packed, toasty warm buses heading to Teton Village will notice significant changes this winter as the transit agency and Teton Village Association officials implement safety measures during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
For starters, all buses will be limited to 75% of rider capacity in order to allow for better social distancing, meaning only 30 riders on START buses and 23 riders on the Stilson Express Shuttle, according to TVA Executive Director Melissa Turley.
All riders and drivers will also be required to wear dry, two-ply masks covering both mouth and nose.
Riders can also expect slightly chillier rides and so should dress appropriately, as Turley said windows on the buses will be open “as much as practicable.”
Buses will be cleaned and disinfected each day, and drivers will receive daily health screenings. Anyone experiencing coronavirus-like symptoms are implored not to ride the buses until they get a clean bill of health.
“These are difficult times requiring challenging decisions for all of us,” START board Chair Susan Mick said in an email. “It seems to me that collaboration will be our only path forward to having a prosperous and healthy winter 2020/21 season for our community.”
Mick said START faces unique challenges this year due to the pandemic, including uncertainty regarding staffing and enforcement of safety measures, all while operating at 30% reduced approved budget.
“We will need signage, free masks, seats blocked off and education/awareness among other details as yet not known,” Mick wrote. “START has no idea of what loads to expect making it difficult to project the need for increased passenger capacity including staffing. We are still short five drivers for current operations.”
START leadership is still weighing options for the coming ski season, Mick said, and encourage residents’ input.
“Feel free to contact myself or [Transit Director] Darren Brugmann to discuss things further,” she wrote.