Hele-On takes precautions for passengers, drivers

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes are available for riders to use as they enter Hele-On buses. Riders are asked to sit apart as the service has continued through the spread of COVID-19.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Bus riders sit a safe distance apart on Wednesday on a Hele-On bus at the Mo'oheau Bus Terminal in Hilo. The seats in the front are closed to keep bus drivers distanced from riders to alleviate a potential spread of COVID-19.

So far it’s business as usual for Hawaii County’s Mass Transit Agency, but with more safety precautions in place amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Mass Transit Administrator Brenda Carreira said no routes have been canceled, and because ridership is lower, “social distancing is not a problem.”

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Because Hawaii Island is the largest island and has a higher number of low-income individuals and people without vehicles, “we need to get them where they need to go,” she said. “… I haven’t seen need at this time to cancel anything.”

Carreira, though, said she is reviewing the numbers, and was waiting for this week to conclude and the possible closures of additional hotels “to really get a feel of the numbers before making any cancellation.”

On Friday, she said the agency is monitoring a few routes to ensure social distancing, and routes could be modified after reviewing data with county leadership. As of April 1, Hele-On drivers are contracted through Robert’s Tours and Transportation.

If buses reach a certain passenger limit, Carreira said drivers can instruct would-be riders to wait for the next bus.

And rather than canceling routes, Carreira said she has pre-approved Roberts to add buses to certain routes “so people aren’t stranded as much as possible.”

According to Carreira, buses that return to the county base yard are cleaned and sanitized each night.

Among other steps to reduce the risk of COVID-19, passengers are not permitted to sit in the first two rows of the bus for driver safety and disinfectant wipes are available to wipe down fare boxes and other surfaces, she said.

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Alcohol spray will also be distributed to help with disinfecting.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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