128BC/The GRID shuttle service is currently suspended. All The GRID routes will resume service on Monday, June 8, 2020. Read more about service resumption, and learn more about our Safe Shuttle Protocols.


The Mission

In mid-March 2020, we were forced to temporarily suspend services as a result of the evolving SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 crisis. This was the first time we had suspended services beyond the length of a snow day in the entirety of our 33 year history.

We quickly recognized that this was going to be a long-term challenge and thus set out to build an interdisciplinary team to create an entirely new operational model.

This team includes transportation operations specialists, finance and policy specialists, and researchers—including an epidemiology & public health consultant specializing in the coronavirus.

We intentionally included human and research resources from the world of hospital safety because we wanted to be driven by what would be necessary for mitigating large-scale public health risk, not by preexisting transportation industry standards.

The team has reconsidered all aspects of our service from the ground up. Our new protocols include new cleaning procedures, physical alterations to the shuttles, new seating layouts, new personnel roles, and completely new waiting and boarding procedures—all designed to minimize exposure risk and provide multiple layers of protection for our riders, drivers, and staff.

Taken together, these new protocols amount to an entirely new shuttle service. Many will also become part of our permanent operations and thus represent significant service upgrades, even beyond the current crisis.

During all phases of our research and planning, we invested financial and human resources with an eye toward creating assets that would be applicable to other shared transportation services and to all classes of ridership. Beyond the safety of our own drivers and riders, we hope to contribute to the improved safety of public and shared transportation riders across the industry—especially those who are the most transit-dependent. We are also ready to help our member organizations apply similar health and safety principles to their worksites, creating a continuum of safety on and off the shuttle.

We want to be as transparent as possible with our riders and member organizations, and therefore you can read about all of the major aspects of our new protocols below.

Please be mindful that these protocols may be adjusted as they are piloted and as new information about SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 becomes available.

Finally, the information below is just a summary. Our full working protocols document is many times longer, and additional instructional images, animations, and other tips will be posted and distributed to riders closer to the start of our pilot period.

Cleaning Protocols

Multiple Layers of Cleaning

Our shuttles will undergo multiple layers of disinfection and cleaning. All frequently-touched and shared surfaces (e.g. handrails and seats) will be cleaned between each and every trip.

Every day each shuttle will also undergo two rounds of complete interior disinfection and cleaning. (More on these two rounds below.) And then, all of the shuttles will receive a final deep cleaning each weekend, especially focused on fighting the build-up of moisture and residue from all of those daily cleanings.

Additionally, if a single vehicle is to be used by different drivers on the same day, the cockpit area will be carefully disinfected between those drivers’ shifts.

The speed and effectiveness of these multiple layers of disinfection and cleaning are partially dependent upon the physical structure of the vehicles themselves. Wherever it was necessary to add anything to the interior space, rigid and/or non-porous surfaces have been selected. The fact that our fleet was already fabric-free is also extremely helpful in this regard.

CDC-Approved Cleaning Products

All wet cleaning products in use on 128 Business Council shuttles between trips and at the end of the day must be approved by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) specifically for use against SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19. A list of CDC-approved products can be found here. The complete list can be downloaded as a spreadsheet, allowing you to sort by contact time, manufacturer, etc.

Verification of a specific product’s efficacy is essential. We have encountered multiple instances of cleaning product manufacturers specifically marketing their products in reference to COVID-19 without meeting the disinfection criteria necessary for inclusion on the above list.

UVC Disinfection

As mentioned above, the shuttles will receive two rounds of disinfection and cleaning at the end of each day. The first round of disinfection and cleaning will use CDC-approved wet products, while the second round will use industrial UVC disinfection units, similar to what is used in many hospitals. In addition to providing a second level of disinfection to frequently-touched and shared surfaces, UVC disinfection will especially focus on corners, cracks, and harder-to-reach surfaces.

Why UVC Disinfection? UVC disinfection is environmentally-friendly and, once the equipment is sourced, does not present supply chain challenges during periods of high demand for cleaning products. UVC cleaning is also non-toxic and non-corrosive; it is therefore easier on both the vehicle and those riding the vehicle. Relatedly, UVC disinfection leaves behind no moisture or residue–both of which can create the need for additional cleaning. Finally and possibly most importantly, UVC disinfection can reach surfaces easily missed by traditional cleaning procedures.

Procedure, Procedure, Procedure

Just “wiping down” surfaces isn’t sufficient. All wet products must be used in accordance with manufacturer and CDC specifications regarding the proper application procedure and necessary contact time. This is crucial because cleaning agents vary in terms of the amount of contact time needed for the chemical reaction to occur. If you wipe the cleaning product off or let it evaporate too quickly, you cannot guarantee that the surface has been fully disinfected.

But physical scrubbing or wiping is still essential to cleaning. UVC Disinfection alone would not be sufficient, nor would the use of the fog- or mist-based disinfection systems that you may have seen elsewhere. Physical scrubbing or wiping is necessary to disrupt any biofilm (viral cells that become stuck together and to the surface or material) that may be present.

Sufficient contact time + physical scrubbing or wiping constitute proper cleaning procedure.

On The Shuttle

Driver Temperature & Health Screening

Each and every day, all drivers will undergo a temperature and wellness screening before boarding the shuttle for their shift. No drivers will board any 128 Business Council vehicle if they are experiencing symptoms identified with COVID-19 by the CDC, nor if they are experiencing symptoms included in the CDC’s list of symptoms for reportable illness more in general.

Why take the drivers’ temperatures? The presence of a temperature above 100.4° F suggests the presence of an infection, and therefore anyone with a temperature at or above this level should be isolated from other drivers, employees, and the public.

However, taking drivers’ temperatures alone does not eliminate the need for other protective measures. Given that many people with COVID-19 and other infectious diseases remain asymptomatic, or are contagious for several days before becoming symptomatic, the absence of an elevated temperature does not certify health. Taking drivers’ temperatures is just one layer in a multi-layered approach to preventing the spread of disease.

Driver Personal Protective Equipment & Rigid Driver Partitions

All drivers are required to wear masks and gloves throughout their shift.

However, just providing masks and gloves is not enough: PPE requires training. 128 Business Council is providing training to all drivers and staff on how to safely put on, wear, remove, clean, and dispose of their PPE. There is more discussion below in the Rider Protocols section regarding proper mask use and hygiene.

Riders will also see newly-installed plexiglass driver partitions as soon as they board the shuttle, which provide an additional layer of reciprocal protection for the driver and riders during boarding.

Why personal protective equipment AND protective partitions? Whenever possible, PPE should be used in combination with maintaining at least 6-foot distances. Since the driver and riders must come in closer contact at the point of boarding (and our shuttles do not allow for rear boarding), we have installed physical barriers.

More in general, a fundamental feature of all of our protocols is overlapping layers of protection so that health and safety is never dependent upon a single protocol.

Driver personal protective equipment plus a physical barrier provide multiple layers of protection.

Shuttle Capacity Reduction and Assigned Seating

To promote physical distancing on the shuttles, shuttle capacity is being reduced with available seats clearly marked and assigned to maximize the space between riders and minimize riders having to pass one another in close quarters.

If you are heading to the last stop, you will be asked to board first and assigned a seat at the back of the bus. If you are heading to the first stop, you will be asked to board last and assigned a seat at the front of the bus. More information about the seating procedure is provided below under Rider Protocols.

Seating layout for a non-ADA vehicle.

Seating layout for ADA vehicle.

At Alewife Station

Staffing levels and protocols have been customized to the spatial layout, traffic, and number of 128BC shuttles traveling through each station. Alewife Station presents the largest-scale challenge and therefore requires the most complex protocols. Riders boarding a shuttle at Newton Highlands and Waltham Center will follow similar protocols without the need for a separate Shuttle Attendant. 

The Shuttle Attendant

Controlling human movement is just as important as are cleaning procedures and protective gear.

In order to ensure carefully choreographed waiting and boarding procedures, riders traveling via Alewife Station will find a new Shuttle Attendant onsite throughout the morning commute. The Shuttle Attendant’s primary function will be to oversee human movement from outside the shuttle, as well as maintaining the careful layout of the waiting area. Members of the 128 Business Council team will be personally staffing this critical role.

Upon arriving at the Alewife waiting area, each rider will check in with the Shuttle Attendant (from a safe distance). Based upon the destination information collected from each rider at check-in, the Shuttle Attendant will build trip-specific seating assignments for each departure and then direct riders to board the shuttle in the order of these assignments, minimizing even passing contact between riders. More information about the procedure for assigning seats is provided below under Rider Protocols.

Like the shuttle drivers, the Shuttle Attendant will undergo a temperature and wellness screening before heading to Alewife Station.

Layout schematic for Alewife Station primary and secondary waiting areas.

Clearly Marked Individual Waiting Areas

Riders traveling through Alewife Station will find clearly delineated primary and secondary waiting areas featuring signage detailing the waiting and boarding procedures, physically distanced zones for waiting versus walking, and individual waiting areas clearly indicated by brightly-colored cones.

Three-dimensional view of the primary waiting area. Station Attendant shown in green. Riders shown in blue.

Back-Up PPE & Shuttle Cleaning Supplies

It is essential that unusual circumstances and human error never lead to protocol disruptions.

In addition to their other duties, the Shuttle Attendant will also have extra gloves (for drivers) and masks (for drivers and riders) on-hand, as well as extra CDC-approved cleaning products.

Shuttles traveling in and out of Newton Highlands and Waltham Center will have their back-up supply of PPE and cleaning products on board.

Need More Help?

Help for Transportation Organizations

Contact 128 Business Council to learn more about the ways in which we can assist your organization in restarting transportation operations.

We are passionate about contributing to the safety and viability of public and shared transportation in this unprecedented landscape. Because we know first hand that organizations across the transportation industry are in critical need of ideas and accurate information at this time, we invested financial and human resources beyond the point of addressing our specific needs and questions.

We would be happy to share our research, talk through your specific organization’s circumstances and how our work might be applied to those circumstances, and even help you customize our assets to your specific organization. Reach out directly to our team to discuss new protocols that can enhance the safety of your transportation services for both your riders and employees.

Help for Office Sites

Much of the research and work that we have conducted regarding safe shuttle protocols would continue to be applicable once riders disembark from our vehicles and enter your worksite. If you would benefit from assistance with setting up improved health and safety protocols at your worksite, do not hesitate to reach out to our team.