Winter Park transit faces challenges with capacity limits
Lately, when Winter Park resident Gene Palumbo and his wife head to Winter Park Resort, they park in one of the lots and walk to the base.
On Sunday, the couple decided to hope on a shuttle and almost immediately wished they hadn’t.
Every seat was full on the shuttle from Old Town to the resort and no windows were open. Everyone Palumbo could see was wearing a mask, but there was no space to distance and no ventilation with all the bus windows closed.
“We were surprised and pretty uncomfortable,” Palumbo said. “We were body to body, toe to toe.”
Following the holidays, Grand County Public Health, the town of Winter Park and Winter Park Resort have received complaints about packed shuttles not following capacity limitations.
Winter Park Town Manager Keith Riesberg confirmed it’s been tricky enforcing capacity limits on the shuttles, as he said the drivers don’t have the ability to force riders’ compliance.
“Where our challenge has come has been at the end of the day when the buses are picking up people coming off the mountain, (and they’re) basically rushing the bus,” Riesberg said. “The direction we give drivers is, first and foremost, to drive the bus focusing on bus safety.”
This helps avoid confrontations between the drivers and riders, Riesberg added.
According to state guidelines, public transportation must provide six feet of social distancing space between riders or limit bus capacity to 50%. In addition, the town’s policies require masks on public transit, as well as limited capacity and open windows to promote airflow.
According to Riesberg, buses have been added to busy routes to try to spread riders out. Furthermore, all public transit has signage with the relevant COVID requirements to encourage voluntary compliance.
“We continually remind our drivers of what the expectations and protocols are, but this is something that requires cooperation from everyone,” he said.
The town also has partnered with Home James, a rideshare company, to offer another option to people uncomfortable using public transit. Riesberg said that service saw its highest use so far during the holidays.
Winter Park Resort spokesperson Jen Miller said the resort is working with the town to try to mitigate concerns in the future.
Palumbo noted that the bus rides were in contrast to his experience elsewhere at the resort, where he said COVID-19 guidelines have been enforced and followed more consistently.
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West Grand seniors Rene Dominguez, right, and Angel Dominguez pass the baton during one of the nighttime relays at the 2021 Joe Shields Invitational at WGHS.