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RFTA Decontaminates Buses, Gives Employees Extra Sick Leave

Mar 12, 2020

A RFTA bus at Rubey Park Transit Center in December 2019.
Credit Alex Hager / Aspen Public Radio

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority says it does not expect to completely suspend bus service amid concern over COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. RFTA is sanitizing buses, expanding sick leave for drivers and drafting contingency plans should a reduction in service prove necessary.

The transit authority has begun “fogging” buses with a virucide and wiping down touch surfaces. 

“Our goal is that by the beginning of next week, we will be fogging 80 to 90% of the buses in the fleet on a daily basis,” said RFTA CEO Dan Blankenship. “By the end of next week, we hope to hit 100% of the buses in the fleet.” 

As for drivers, year-round employees will be allowed to take extra paid sick days and “accrue negative sick leave,” which they can work off as the year continues. Seasonal drivers will receive 40 hours of sick leave and will be granted more on a case-by-case basis in the event of a prolonged illness.

If service were to be reduced, drivers who would otherwise have shifts will be placed on paid standby. 

“Whatever remaining service we have operating,” Blankenship said, “if somebody got sick there, then one of the bus operators available because their shifts were cut would fill that shift. So they're getting paid if they're not working, but they're available to work when others call in sick.”

Blankenship said he didn’t have any indication of whether or not ridership has decreased recently. If RFTA were to limit service, he said, it would most likely start with a reduction of skier shuttle service, which is contracted by the Aspen Skiing Company. Blankenship added that the frequency of some bus routes could be limited if decreased ridership significantly reduces demand, or the amount of available drivers and maintenance workers becomes limited.

Blankenship also emphasized the importance of staying off buses for people who feel any symptoms of illness.

“If you're really sick, please don't use the service,” Blankenship said. “It could possibly negatively impact a significant number of people. We all have to exercise some self-discipline and take others into consideration.”