COVID-19
  • Active Air Purification is a Transit Weapon Against COVID By:

    By John-Paul McGovern, PhD. As transit agencies return to full service in many cities and municipalities, the industry is turning to new, breakthrough technology to prevent COVID-19 transmission and restore faith in public transportation. When the pandemic started, we saw a massive impact on the nation’s public transportation sector. We felt the need to focus much of our engineering efforts on how we could help people safely return to their daily lives using public transportation.  The bus industry needs technology which decreases the chance of transmission for all parties involved – the public, operators, facility staff and front-line employees that work in these vehicles every day. One such technology, brand new to North American bus transportation, is Active Air Purification by United Safety. This air sanitization breakthrough is powered by ultraviolet photohydroionization (UV-PHI®) technology, provided by RGF® Environmental Group, Inc., which disperses low-dose hydrogen peroxide molecules throughout the cabin of a transit bus. These molecules react with– and effectively eliminate 99% of bacterial and viral pathogens both airborne and those on surfaces surface.  including SARS-CoV-2 (which causes the COVID-19 disease), H1N1 flu, and other cold-causing viruses. This continuous purification makes the onboard air more like the outdoor air, which naturally contains hydrogen peroxide molecules at similar concentrations to those created by UV-PHI systems.  As is well document, in outdoor air transmission rates of SARS-CoV-2 (which causes the COVID-19 disease) are dramatically reduced. Although it is a new concept for American bus transportation, UV-PHI® technology is widely used in government buildings, hospitals and the food service industry (including all Chipotle restaurants)around the country. An installed system produces onboard levels of hydrogen peroxide that are more than an order of magnitude below OSHA’s recommended maximums for contained environments. In bus cabin test environments, Active Air Purification is maintaining bacteria levels equivalent to hospitals and food processing centers – even without daily disinfection. The device can be installed directly into an existing HVAC system or as a standalone unit and has been widely tested for transit and rail operations with further applications in the first responder and school bus markets. The system is customized for bus transportation and, unlike some other technologies, is safe for the materials of a bus’s interior. One of the first transit authorities to adopt this innovation is Green Bay Metro. During the pandemic, according to Patty Kiewiz, transit director for Green Bay Metro, the agency saw ridership reduced to levels as low as 30 percent of normal capacity during the worst months of the pandemic. Numbers like that were unfortunately common across the transit industry in 2020, and restored confidence in safe transit will be key to ridership returning to previous levels. “I have received so much positive feedback, from riders and employers, already regarding the air purification system,” Kiewiz said. “Public confidence must be restored, and this is a move in the right direction.” Active Air Purification with RGF UV-PHI® technology creates a dynamic antimicrobial and antiviral environment inside the bus, improving the safety for passengers and operators all day – every day. This preventive air treatment technology has been tested and used in in hotels, hospitals, and clean laboratories for decades – and it can be a valuable weapon against virus transmission in public transit. John-Paul McGovern, PhD. is vice president of engineering for United Safety. Visit www.unitedsafetycorporation.com for more information.

Motorcoach
  • Arrow Stage Lines maintains fleet excellence throughout COVID-19 By:

    As a fourth-generation family-owned motorcoach company, Arrow Stage Lines has maintained a high standard of excellence since 1928, placing customer comfort and safety at the forefront of their business model despite the onset of a global pandemic. The company was originally founded by Carl Busskohl as a bread and mail delivery service, eventually evolving into a passenger transportation business. Based in Nebraska with locations in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, Arizona, and Nevada, Arrow Stage Lines is one of the largest privately held charter bus companies in the United States, providing services to a wide variety of groups including businesses, travel agencies, sports teams, schools, civic groups and more. Luke Busskohl, regional director and chief operating officer at Arrow Stage Lines, notes that while COVID-19 was on the company’s radar, they never expected a total shutdown of their transportation services. “I’ll never forget that week,” Busskohl said. “It was the week of the NCAA Basketball Tournament cancelation and when that happened, our business was completely frozen. We’ve been in business for 92 years now, and we’ve never experienced something like that.” The agency began to make rapid adjustments, in an effort to maintain the longevity of the company and survive post-pandemic. With their lines running drastically fewer trips, several drivers and mechanics were furloughed to preserve dollars and save on insurance costs. With a limited staff, Arrow worked diligently to maintain the same level of vehicle upkeep, adhering to rigorous maintenance schedules and guidelines. “The reality of the matter is that I’m so impressed with our people,” Busskohl said. “They’ve taken on the challenge, taken on so much more to help us get us through this. But our on-road experience has been phenomenal. Our breakdowns have been very, very low and the customer base has been very happy.” Arrow continues to stay in contact with furloughed employees through weekly Zoom meetings, continuously re-evaluating financial and staffing capabilities as ridership continues to grow. With a significant portion of their business derived from athletic travel, Arrow has contracts with collegiate and professional athletic teams like the NCAA, and as professional sports began to recover and regenerate, Arrow was able to return to work providing safe and secure transportation. “It wasn’t anything that was long-term sustainable, but it has really helped us preserve cash, and move forward as an organization,” Busskohl said. “When COVID is behind us and people want to travel in motorcoaches again, we’ll be strong, healthy, and ready to go.” Arrow continues to clean and disinfect all vehicles before and after coming in contact with the ridership, setting in place extensive sanitization protocols for extended charter trips which generally last anywhere from one day to one week. “We have protocols in place for our motorcoach operators to clean and disinfect the vehicles throughout the trip,” Busskohl said. “We’ve implemented a technology that documents those procedures, and what we can do with that technology.” Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Arrow invested in CURIS commercial fogging machines, a decontamination system that disinfects the interior of an entire bus using 7 percent hydrogen peroxide fog, killing 99 percent of germs – including COVID-19 particles. While each manufacturer has their own onboard air quality guidelines, standard HVAC, MERV five or higher filter media are in place adding an additional layer of air quality purification with each Arrow bus running on a regular sanitization and purification schedule. “The combination of all those things, being able to show our customers that we’re taking real safety measures gives them the confidence and security to ride our motor coaches,” Busskohl said. “It’s one thing to say you’re doing it, it’s another thing to prove it.”

Transit
  • Suffolk County navigates crisis through safety and service By:

    As home to one of the largest school bus fleets in the industry with a public transit division (Suffolk Bus Corp.) offering service to upwards of 1.5 million county residents, Suffolk Transportation Service, Inc. is committed to providing safe and reliable transportation throughout the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.  In the past 50 years, Suffolk Transportation Services, Inc. has grown from 35 school buses and 15 transit buses to over 1,600 school buses, 80 transit buses and 200 paratransit buses with upwards of 500 drivers split between public transit and paratransit services alone. “Back in March when this started, we didn’t have a vivid understanding of what was truly going on,” said Ray Grimaldi, vice president of transit operation and corporate maintenance at Suffolk Bus Corp. “We were led by our governor, who was guiding us through a pandemic that we really didn’t understand, while continuously working to maintain a full transit system.” Suffolk Bus Corp. maintained full service throughout the crisis, in both public transit and paratransit operations. To help paratransit ridership, a new Single-Rider per-trip policy was initiated. This policy helped to relieve some of the stress for the paratransit ridership. “Paratransit can wined itself down,” Grimaldi explained. “The paratransit system feeds off itself. As volume dropped, so did the service needs, which was good because I had less availability to my resources.” In an effort to increase safety and curb further loses, the company quickly implemented increased safety measures including social distancing, mandatory face coverings, protective shielding, and elimination of front-door boarding and fare collection. The company also re-aligned its staffing to accommodate new disinfecting measures and adopted vigorous cleaning throughout the fleet and offices. “We developed a disinfecting program that’s still in place today, where every bus is disinfected twice a day,” Grimaldi said. “Every bus in the fleet. And the fleet is 200 parabuses and 85 fixed route buses, so we have a rather large fleet.” Like most other transit agencies, Suffolk Bus Corp. initially struggled with enforcing mask mandates among riders. They developed a program focused around media hype which quickly increased their ridership’s PPE utilization. Since June, the company’s ridership has slowly returned, with paratransit commuters back to 60 percent and fixed route systems up to 65 percent. “The ridership feels comfortable using our system, as do our Drivers,” Grimaldi said. “There’s nothing too small or too large that we will not consider to keep the ridership and the drivers safe.” As a private operator, Suffolk Bus Corp. runs under an RFP for the county, working closely with local government agencies including the Suffolk County Commissioner’s Office and the Department of Public Works. According to Grimaldi, the agencies continue to communicate on a regular basis via weekly virtual calls addressing any current or forthcoming issues. “We continue to maintain Safety and Service,” Grimaldi said. “But as we go through this day to day, and as things get a little back to normal, as long as we are protecting ourselves, protecting the drivers, we will continue to run the business as normal as we can.”