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Road Runner: Tucson transit and mobility companies move to protect riders, drivers
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Road Runner

Road Runner: Tucson transit and mobility companies move to protect riders, drivers

A parking officer for the city of Tucson wipes down parking meters on East University Boulevard. Some metered spots will allow 15 minutes of free parking to let customers pick up takeout meals from city restaurants.

Tucsonans without cars can still get around during the COVID-19 pandemic, but their trips may be a bit more nerve-wracking than usual.

Here’s what local bus, taxi, ride-sharing and scooter providers are doing to keep riders safe:

Riding the bus

City transit services were made free Saturday to support the community, officials said.

Sun Tran, Sun Link and Sun Van waived all fares at least through the end of March.

The change keeps a foundation of Tucsonans’ lives intact during uncertain times, said Andrew Seelig, who uses Sun Tran buses to get around.

“It’s relieving, actually. It’s kind of nice to know that someone in my situation that’s lost his vehicle recently can get around and not have to worry about getting stranded somewhere,” Seelig said while waiting for his bus Friday at the Roy Laos Transit Center on the south side.

“In the past couple of months, I’ve been stranded so many times and it’s just been awful,” Seelig said.

To protect riders like Seelig, vehicles are being cleaned every day to prevent exposure to the coronavirus.

A fogging machine applies an industrial-grade disinfectant to the vehicles, especially the high-use, common areas, according to Sun Tran.

“Every night we disinfect all handrails, all grab bars, all poles, all pull cords, all press tapes on the vehicles. We do that every night. We do that in the Sun Tran, the Sun Link and Sun Van,” a Sun Tran statement said.

Drivers have been given disinfecting wipes and sanitizer to keep work areas clean, especially the steering wheel and the controls that are regularly touched.

Sun Tran said riders should follow general guidelines from health officials, such as washing hands often; covering a cough or sneeze; avoiding touching your face; and staying home if sick.

They also ask that people observe social distancing on the buses, leaving at least 6 feet between riders.

That may not be that difficult, based on daily observations from Shai Leon, who’s been riding the buses for the past eight years.

“After the whole coronavirus hit, it’s not very many people” on the bus, Leon said.

“Usually this place is packed and the Ronstadt (Transit Center) is dead, too. It being Friday, people are getting paid and so on and so forth, but there’s nobody here.”

Still, Leon said he’ll be taking advantage of the free transit rides to get around when he needs to.

“It’s a good thing. It helps, especially if you don’t have money,” he said.

Other mobility options still available

Two scooter companies in Tucson, Bird and Razor, have initiated safety measures to try and keep riders and employees safe.

Bird said it has increased daily cleanings for vehicles and is sterilizing helmets it gives to riders. Employees handling the vehicles have been provided extra gloves and sanitizer, the company said.

They recommend riders wash their hands before and after a trip.

Razor said it is disinfecting scooters multiple times per week during maintenance and battery swap procedures.

For those using ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft, both companies said they’re also taking precautions.

Drivers told by a public health agency to self-isolate will receive financial assistance for up to 14 days, Uber’s website said.

In an effort to keep vehicles clean, the company will send disinfectant supplies to cities, but currently only those with the greatest need.

Taxi services are continuing operations, too.

VIP Taxi continues operations in Tucson and Phoenix and said it is following guidelines to make trips as safe as possible.

“In these trying times, we’ve ensured that we keep our taxis sanitized, with our drivers practicing measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” VIP taxi said in a statement.

Down the Road

Traffic closures coming to I-10 near Ruthrauff Road

Construction crews on Sunday night began to close the left two westbound lanes of Interstate 10 near Ruthrauff Road.

Those lanes will be closed again from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday night into Tuesday morning.

In addition to the traffic shift, the Sunset Road exit ramp from westbound I-10 will move to the southeast. The exit will provide direct access to westbound I-10 frontage road businesses.

Contact Star reporter Shaq Davis at 573-4218 or sdavis@tucson.com

On Twitter: @ShaqDavis1

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