It’s admirable the Charlotte Area Transit System continues operating buses and light rail free of charge to provide essential workers, including health care professionals, a way to get to and from work.
I am also impressed CATS rolled out new protocols to maintain social distancing, such as taping off certain seats and limiting the number of passengers that can board a bus to 20.
However, a vulnerability exists with the bus route serving Matthews that could potentially affect some of the other most frequently used routes. That vulnerability exists in buses that are extremely late or just don’t bother showing up.
I witnessed this April 15. One of the Route 27 buses scheduled to leave the Charlotte Transportation Center for Matthews that morning never arrived. People had to wait an additional 30 minutes for the next bus.
Before coronavirus, this wouldn’t be a big deal. But with buses operating on less frequent Saturday schedules, you’re facing the prospect of twice as many people riding the next bus, making social distancing very difficult to maintain.
The driver that followed the absent bus on April 15 looked startled as around 20 people boarded her bus before the route even started. She muttered, “Where is everybody going,” – obviously unaware the prior bus never arrived.
This brings me to my next point – communication.
I would encourage passengers to call the customer service line (704-336-7433 and press 0) whenever a bus is running five minutes late. One passenger recently told me there’s no use in calling, because they won’t do anything about it. I think you may be surprised.
It’s really the only way to hold drivers accountable and ensures an extra layer of safety for riding public transportation at a time when you shouldn’t be rubbing shoulders with other people.
CATS should probably allow Route 27 to return to its regular weekday schedule, at least during high volume morning and afternoon commutes, and have a backup driver ready to jump in if the route is running more than 10 minutes late or exceeding its 20-passenger limit. Then again, I have no experience running a public transportation system.