The Utah Transit Authority is working to keep students safe from COVID-19 this fall semester by maintaining current safety measures and implementing new ones to prevent the spread of the virus.
UTA took several measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, modifying sanitation procedures and adjusting services. In addition, riders are required to wear face coverings on all UTA services until further notice.
UTA introduced new cleaning procedures in March for their buses, trains and other vehicles to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. This includes thorough cleaning of seats, windows, floors and areas frequently touched by passengers.
“We began to disinfect the vehicles with even more stringent standards and to sanitize them,” said UTA spokesman Carl Arky. “We’re continuing to look at all types of methods and ways to make the buses and the trains and the paratransit vehicles and our vans as antiseptic as they possibly can be.”
Beringo, who withheld her last name because she is both a student and employee at Salt Lake Community College, walks across the Taylorsville Redwood Campus to catch a bus. While she tries to use public transit less often, she notes the changes UTA has made in response to the pandemic.
“You can actively see their measures to combat this,” Beringo said, as she walked to her bus stop. “Still, if you’re taking this transportation, it’s at your own risk.”
Beringo and other students must now board UTA buses in the back and swipe their OneCard as they enter. Those needing a ramp may still board at the front. Plexiglass dividers are installed to separate passengers from the front of the bus and a yellow floor stripe reminds riders to stay at least six feet away from drivers.
On TRAX and FrontRunner services, yellow ropes and signs are used to separate riders and operators.
Hand sanitizer is also available for passengers. UTA is planning to install more signage to promote good hygiene and social distancing practices. Beginning July 1, UTA requires employees and passengers across its system to wear face coverings.
While masks will be offered to those boarding buses and trains without a face covering, riders will not be turned away if they choose not to wear one.
“We won’t be taking anybody off of our vehicles and we won’t be preventing anyone from getting onboard,” Arky said. “Our approach is to educate and to inform as much as we possibly can. We hope to encourage people to please wear the masks, but we’re not going to deny service to anybody who does not have one on.”
Beringo understands the risks when riding with others.
“You cannot control the health measures of those who are riding with you,” Beringo said through her mask. “The moment you leave your house you are at risk.”
Free masks are available at UTA Customer Service locations, and passengers can also request to have one mailed to them by calling 801-RIDE-UTA.
In response to a decrease in ridership and to limit the spread of COVID-19, UTA reduced service systemwide in April. The reduction included bus service to the Jordan Campus. On Aug. 23, UTA restored its service levels to 90 percent, including the Jordan Campus stop.
“UTA will do everything possible to make it as convenient and expedient for students to get to and from campus,” Arky said. “We want to be there for the students and make sure that we’re providing the services that they need and the transportation that they need.”
Beringo continues to ride buses and trains, but only if necessary.
“If you’re not a germophobe, I think you can survive the experience,” Beringo laughed through her mask as she waits for her bus. “Of course, with your own measures; a mask on, try not to touch too much — I think you can be fine.”
Visit the UTA website for updates on UTA’s COVID-19 safety measures as well as route information.
An earlier version of this story originally appeared in the 2020 back to school issue.