Dartmouth Coach resumes service with added safety protocols

by Lorraine Liu | 8/21/20 2:10am

by Naina Bhalla / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

After more than four months of suspended operations, the Dartmouth Coach bus service resumed operations on Aug. 16 with plans for new safety protocols, fewer trips and reduced capacity. 

The bus service will continue to run the same two routes — between the Upper Valley and Boston as well as between the Upper Valley and New York City — and prices will stay the same, according to vice president of Concord Coach Lines and Dartmouth Coach Benjamin Blunt. However, there will be just six trips a day between the Upper Valley and Boston, down from 10 pre-pandemic. The round-trip service between the Upper Valley and New York City, which used to operate daily, will now only be offered once a day, twice a week, on Fridays and Sundays. 

Maximum seat capacity on each bus has been reduced from 51 to 34 passengers, Blunt said. He noted that since the Coach resumed service on the 16th, buses have carried just five or six passengers per trip.

“We're running at fairly reduced capacities,” Blunt said. “But that's okay. We're just happy to be back on the road and starting to build some momentum going forward.”

In addition to reduced capacity, Dartmouth Coach has installed plexiglass dividers between the rows of seats, at ticket counters and between passengers and drivers to cut down on person-to-person contact. High-touch surfaces will be wiped down before and after every trip, and every bus will be sprayed with an electrostatic fogger every day to more thoroughly disinfect, according to Blunt. He added that if the company becomes aware of any passenger or employee testing positive for COVID-19 after riding the bus, the bus will be taken out of service to be thoroughly disinfected and the employee would quarantine for a minimum of 14 days. 

The company will also assist the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services with contact tracing and help communicate quarantine requirements if passengers arrive in states like New York, Blunt said. He added that the company intends to put up information regarding state travel advisories on its website shortly.

Passengers are required to wear face coverings throughout their trips, and people “not comfortable with” the rule will “not be allowed to ride the bus,” Blunt said.

Maxine Smith ’22, who plans to drive to campus from Yonkers, New York instead of taking the Dartmouth Coach, said she is concerned about the enforcement of mask-wearing during the trip.

“What would [Dartmouth Coach] do if we’re like two hours into the trip and somebody decides to take their masks off because they think they’re fine?” Smith said. “What practices do they have in place to deal with situations like that?”

Blunt added that Dartmouth Coach conducts temperature checks and wellness surveys for employees and drivers but opted not to do so for passengers because of concerns over technology, privacy and the possibility of asymptomatic cases.

Regarding the planned return of about 2,300 Dartmouth students to Hanover, Blunt said he expects Dartmouth Coach will increase the number of buses running the same schedule to make sure that demand can be met. 

“We will plan around the student moves [to campus] to add extra buses available to make sure that we can accommodate those big booms of travel,” he said.

Blunt noted that the company has been in contact with the College regarding the coach’s resumed service and the College’s plans for fall term. He said he expects “a little bit more” communication with the College as students start to return to campus. 

College spokesperson Diana Lawrence wrote in an email statement that the College will be in contact with students returning for the fall about using public transportation to come to campus soon. 

Shelby Sexton ’22, who lives in Michigan, said she plans to take the Dartmouth Coach on her way back to Hanover, and that she has confidence in the company’s safety protocols.

“All of my experiences with Dartmouth Coach in the past have been good, so I think I probably trust it more than I do with other public transportation that I know,” Sexton said. “A lot of public transportation right now is more crowded than it should be.”