Bus Safety Measures Vary NationwideBy Pedro Alcalá | Mon, 04/27/2020 - 19:35
Across Mexico, regional transportation systems are adopting different kinds of safety measures to address the risk of COVID-19 infections. There are no federally recognized or mandated standards that these measures respond to, other than the pandemic-specific health recommendations that the Ministry of Health has released. This is because states and municipalities get to define their own approach to their transportation systems and because many bus systems in Mexico operate under complicated public-private partnerships.
In Hermosillo, capital city of the state of Sonora, a number of issues in the bus system have piled up. Last week, El Sol de Hermosillo reported on a citywide bus driver strike demanding full pay and the implementation of robust sanitary measures. As a response, the city rolled out an “emergent” bus system so that commuters could travel while the striking union’s demands were negotiated and resolved. However, another report by El Sol de Hermosillo has quoted Apolinar Castillo, the leader of the striking union, saying that these new units are operating at overcapacity, turning them into hotspots of possible COVID-19 infections. These accusations have been corroborated by the city’s social media users who are also accusing the temporary bus system of packing their units too tight and not executing proper cleaning procedures inside the units. Another Hermosillo newspaper, Expreso, reports that today Castillo was arrested and the strikers were removed from public property as the original bus system restarted its normal operations. However, it remains to be seen if safety issues will be addressed.
In the city of Mazatlan, face masks are now considered mandatory to access public buses. A report from Noroeste highlights the newly written messages now readable on a number of city buses demanding that commuters put on face masks before entering the bus. This, however, despite the fact that a number of the city’s bus drivers are not wearing face masks. These measures respond to local Mazatlan safety guidelines posted after the federal government launched Phase 3 on April 20. One of these measures directly demands that bus drivers wear face masks and gives them the right to refuse service to any commuter not wearing a face mask.
The city of Monterrey has implemented stricter measures through the use of limited schedules. The city’s entire public transportation systems, from buses to subway lines, now operate under two four-to-five-hour timetables. They are opened for a morning timetable from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. and then closed until the beginning of their afternoon timetable, which goes from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Hora Cero reports that the schedule for Saturdays will be from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m., while Sundays and bank holidays will see a complete shutdown of the system. No more than 10 people will be allowed to queue at any given time inside bus stops and both taxis and private vehicles will be limited to two people plus the driver per vehicle, with passengers only allowed to board on the backseat.
In other cities, public transportation systems have switched up their routes to avoid high concentrations of users. Milenio reports that in the Durango city of Gómez Palacio, buses and taxis this morning decided to stop crossing the main city center. This resulted in confusion from commuters who had to adapt to the new stops. However, the measure was previously announced by the city government. In other states, more elaborate measures are being implemented, not only in municipal bus systems but also with long distance buses. Tribuna Campeche reports that the state government of Campeche is holding meetings with representatives from major long distance bus companies such as ADO and Autotur to fix sanitary measures at buses, bus stations and bus transit centers across the state.