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AC Transit is launching its “reNEW plan” and will be offering free masks and hand sanitisers on its buses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
From an on-the-go AC Transit version to provide free basic personal protective equipment (PPE):
We have selected three-layer breathable masks that are non-toxic and non-irritating, with a soft nosepiece and elastic ear loop, making each mask easy to wear. We also exceed CDC guidelines by offering our drivers foaming hand sanitizer based on 70% ethyl alcohol. We’ve selected an FDA-approved hand sanitizer that kills 99.999% of germs in 15 seconds.
Face masks and hand sanitizer dispensers are posted on the modesty panel at the back door of most of our fleet, with the exception of the 60-foot articulated buses. In these buses, the drivers will find the dispensers near the middle doors. AC Transit drivers are advised that the blue side of the mask should be worn on the outside and that the nose clip should always point towards the top of the mask.
Masks and hand sanitiser dispensers. Photo: AC Transit
AC Transit follows VTA, which is also busy installing hand sanitizer and masks on trains and buses. Both agencies now exceed the recommendations of the “Blue Ribbon Transit Recovery Task Force” of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which theoretically established a safety basis for transit operators in the Bay Area. This document has been postponed by advocates just to offer comprehensive virus safety guidelines and even cut down on some government safety recommendations – for example, changing a 6-foot distancing policy to just three feet.
Proponents praised what AC Transit and VTA are doing, but said it should have been managed by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission as early as the spring, just before the pandemic began. “I just wish every transit agency in the Bay Area had the resources and essentials to put something like this together,” said Edie Irons of TransForm. Eisen and another proponent thought the free masks will help save lives on and off the bus as many key employees do not have access to fresh, high quality masks.
AC Transit representatives are now also busy installing plexiglass shields around the driver’s seat to protect them. They also performed air circulation tests and installed new high performance filter systems. Your counterintuitive conclusion: the best way to remove viruses from the air is to keep windows and hatches closed so the filters can operate at maximum efficiency.
Also from the AC transit declaration:
We have installed the highest level of filtration that the HVAC manufacturer allows on our buses. The new and improved HEPA filters (High Efficiency Particle Air) are rated MERV-7. This means that each bus removes particles as small as 3.0 microns. AC Transit’s safety experts have also carried out a series of tests to examine the airflow on board our buses. We tested the ventilation conditions with the windows open and closed, with and without air conditioning, and the use of the skylights. The test results clearly came to the conclusion that an open window disrupts indoor air quality. By keeping all windows closed, new air filters and the HVAC system create a strong air vacuum that pushes out old on-board air and circulates fresh, filtered air every minute and 20 seconds.
According to representatives of the authorities, the introduction of buses equipped with PPE dispensers will begin on Tuesday, “with the expected completion of the entire fleet by Friday, October 16, 2020”.