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Green Mountain Transit says empty buses part of the plan

(WCAX)
Published: Apr. 9, 2020 at 3:45 PM EDT
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Burlington's streets are hardly bustling these days, though some public buses are still running. But are people still riding them? Our Ike Bendavid investigates.

It's business as usual at Burlington's Downtown Transit Center-- sort of-- as people wait to catch a free ride on the next bus.

"I don't drive so the buses are really important to me," said Francesca Aiuto of Underhill.

"Majorly important," said Michael Bishop of Shelburne. "I don't want to walk two hours a night to work."

"I ride the bus only when I have appointments and whatnot," said Tonya Aube of Burlington.

All rides on Green Mountain Transit are free during the coronavirus crisis.

"We want to get people to the essential jobs, to the essential trips like grocery shopping, pharmacy visits, while doing that as safely as possible," said Jon Moore, the general manager of GMT.

With the stay-at-home order, ridership is down and GMT has cut back on service.

Moore says normally in Burlington they have 8,100 boardings a day. The most recent numbers show 2,300 boardings a day. But they're not worried about their bottom line. What they've lost in fares, they've made up with stimulus funds and savings on gas.

"We are asking passengers only to make essential trips," Moore said.

That has resulted in some empty buses but GMT says that's part of the plan.

"Again, trying to create that social distancing and one way to do that is to provide more service than we actually need based on ridership demand," Moore said.

GMT says they are following CDC guidelines for the buses and are disinfecting them throughout the day.

That helps passengers feel safe.

"They are nice. The buses are good," Bishop said. "I kind of sit near the back by myself, so other than that, I'm alright with it."

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