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Coronavirus

AC Transit Rolls Out Free PPE

8:40 AM PDT on September 15, 2020

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AC Transit is launching its "reNEW Plan" and will offer free masks and hand sanitizer on its buses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

From an AC Transit release on the move to provide the free, basic Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):

We have chosen three-ply breathable masks that are non-toxic, non-irritating, and feature a soft nosepiece and elastic ear loop, which makes each mask easy to wear. We are also besting CDC guidance by offering our riders 70% ethyl alcohol-based foaming hand sanitizer. We have selected an FDA-approved hand sanitizer that kills 99.999% of germs within 15 seconds.

Facemasks and hand sanitizer dispensers are affixed to the modesty panel, at the rear door on most of our fleet, with the exception of the 60-foot articulated buses; on these coaches, riders will find the dispensers located near the middle doors. AC Transit riders are reminded the blue side of the mask should be worn on the outside and the nose clip always faces the upper side of the mask.

Masks and hand sanitizer dispensers. Photo: AC Transit
Masks and hand sanitizer dispensers. Photo: AC Transit
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AC Transit follows VTA, which is also busy installing hand sanitizer and masks on trains and buses. Both agencies are now exceeding the recommendations of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's “Blue Ribbon Transit Recovery Task Force" which, in theory, established a baseline for safety for Bay Area transit operators. That document was panned by advocates for offering only broad guidelines for virus safety and even reducing some state safety recommendations--such as changing a six-foot distancing guideline to only three feet.

Advocates praised what AC Transit and VTA are doing, but said it should have been directed by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission back in the spring, near the start of the pandemic. "I only wish that every transit agency in the Bay Area had the funding and the wherewithal to put something like this together," said TransForm's Edie Irons. Irons and another advocate opined that the free masks will help save lives on and off the bus, since many essential workers don't have access to fresh, quality masks.

AC Transit representatives, meanwhile, are also busy installing Plexiglas shields around the drivers' seat to keep them safe. They also did air circulation tests and installed new high-capacity filtration systems. Their counter-intuitive conclusion: the best way to clear viruses from the air is to keep windows and hatches closed to allow the filters to work at maximum efficiency.

Also from the AC Transit statement:

We have installed the highest filtration, allowed on our buses by the HVAC manufacturer. The new and upgraded high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are rated MERV-7, which means each bus removes particulate matter as small as 3.0 micrometers. AC Transit’s safety experts have also conducted a series of tests to examine the flow of air on board our buses. We tested ventilation conditions with windows open and closed, with and without HVAC, and the use of the roof hatches; the test results unequivocally concluded that any open window disrupts the indoor air quality. By keeping all windows closed, new air filters and the HVAC system create a powerful air vacuum forcing old onboard air out and circulating fresh filtered air every minute and 20 seconds.

Rollout of PPE-dispenser-equipped buses will begin Tuesday, say agency officials, "with expected completion of the entire fleet by Friday, October 16, 2020."

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