PTAC spotlights Free B bus service during discussion on public transit

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Commuter bus transportation

Princeton’s Public Transit Advisory Committee discussed the reopening of public transit during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in a meeting on May 12.

Currently, Princeton’s Free B bus service continues to be shutdown, Princeton University’s Tiger Transit is on a reduced service, and Princeton Rail Station (Dinky) is also continuing its service.

“As it is pretty obvious to people we are in a different period and that is not only a different period for what we do in our own lives, but in terms of public transit. Therefore, everything is going to change,” said Dosier Hammond, chair of the Princeton Public Transit Advisory Committee. “Right now the Free B is shut down. There are a lot of things going on with buses and the rail systems.”

He added that there is an unknown component of how things will change with public transit in regards to social distancing and ridership.

“It is going to be a whole new world in terms of public transit and we do not know the pace at which it will go back to normal if it ever gets back to the prior normal,” Hammond said. “COVID-19 is going to affect our planning going forward.”

For the short and medium term, members of the committee stated that they will need to think about public transportation operating differently, such as how many buses will be needed and passenger limits.

Specifically referencing the two Princeton Free B buses called Marvin 1 and 2, which had route stops include Palmer Square, the Princeton Shopping Center, and the Princeton Rail Station known as the ‘Dinky’ prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

Members discussed seating possibly five people on the Marvin 2 bus and two-three people on the Marvin 1 bus to keep social distance, potential limited service, and have the drivers disinfecting the buses after rides.

“It would come down to two or three passengers for Marvin 1 because of the seats that face each other in the front of the bus, so you would have to block those off,” said Joan Lockwood-Reck, liaison to the committee from the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.

She added that if there are discussion plans for increasing capacity they should look at areas that include the most trips used by each housing facility and at what time.

“You might put out two buses for a limited time, because I think you are going to have a rush for the service especially at Elm Court (Princeton Community housing),” Lockwood-Reck said.

A potential service restart date is yet to be announced for the Free B bus.