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Mountain Line halves distancing requirement, masks still mandatory

MORGANTOWN — The Mountain Line Transit Authority voted on Wednesday to cut social-distancing requirements on its buses from 6 to 3 feet.

Mountain Line CEO Dave Bruffy explained the move comes in response to a recent survey in which 143 of 188 respondents said they were comfortable with the reduced distance.

Under the 3-foot rule, drivers will allow one rider per seat. However, passengers can sit in a seat together if both consent.

“If somebody gets on the bus and it’s somebody’s friend and they’re comfortable and they’re not worried about it and want to go sit with them, that’s their decision,” Bruffy told the board. “They’re adults and they can make that determination.”

Bruffy said he’s hopeful the move will also reduce or eliminate instances of riders left standing at the curb due to capacity restrictions on the buses.

With 6-foot distancing in place, the capacity of Mountain Line’s largest vehicles was cut from 32 riders to eight.

In response to a question from board member Denny Poluga, Bruffy said he didn’t have updated numbers available as to how many riders had been refused rides due to capacity restrictions.

“One is too many,” Poluga said.

Transit systems in West Virginia ran the gamut in their COVID responses, with some, like those in Charleston and Huntington, never implementing any distancing requirements, while others shut down completely.

The change will be revisited during the transit authority’s August meeting, at which point Bruffy said distancing may be eliminated altogether if passengers are comfortable with reduced distancing.

Even though riders will be able to sit closer together, they’ll continue to be masked while doing so.

Unless changes come down at the federal level from the Transportation Safety Administration, Bruffy said masks will remain mandatory for the time being.

Mountain Line buses as well as the PRT and WVU buses operating on campus will require face coverings until at least Sept. 13.

At that point, it will likely fall to the individual transit systems to determine their policies on the issue.

“If we decide we want to continue with the mask mandate, we could do that,” Bruffy said. “We actually implemented the mask mandate before we were required to do it.”

Also on Wednesday, the transit board selected leadership for the coming year, retaining Jenny Dinsmore as the body’s president. Poluga was tapped as vice president while Ron Bane was named secretary and Terry Cutright was approved as treasurer.

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