Check your schedule page for your route's current schedule & route-specific rider protocols. Also please familiarize yourself with all of 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 are regularly communicated with our riders via at-station & on-shuttle signage, over twitter, and by email.

If you would benefit from assistance with setting up improved health and safety protocols for your organization or at your worksite, do not hesitate to reach out to our team.

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 plus 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.

All of our drivers have received training for and quick reference guides to safe PPE use.

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.

Boarding Patterns

We are asking our riders to follow carefully-designed boarding and exiting patterns in order to maximize the amount of space between riders and minimize the need for riders to pass one another, even momentarily, in close quarters.

1. Riders are asked to allow for more than 6 feet of space between themselves and the rider in front of them when getting on and off the shuttle.

There are at least three things wrong with this picture. Can you name them all?

2. Whenever everyone on the shuttle is headed to the same destination, riders can seat themselves by heading to the lowest-numbered seat available, as far to the back of the bus as possible.

The first rider onto the shuttle goes all the way to the back and sits in Seat #1.

Riders have filled in Seats #1 through #6, leaving #7 and #8 for riders who might board later.

This is a situation that our boarding patterns are designed to avoid! The first rider onto the shuttle sat in Seat #7, forcing the next rider to unnecessarily pass them within close quarters.

3. Whenever riders are headed to different destinations, a Shuttle Attendant (at Alewife Station) or Driver (at Waltham Center & Newton Highlands) assigns each rider a seat immediately prior to boarding.

Riders headed to the last stop on the route will be asked to board first and assigned a seat at the back of the bus. Riders headed to the first stop on the route will be asked to board last and assigned a seat at the front of the bus.

There are only three riders on this trip, so the Shuttle Attendant or Driver maximized the space by seating the riders in Seats #1, #4, and #7.

4. Upon reaching their destination, riders are asked to remain seated and let the riders ahead of them (in higher-numbered seats) exit first.

The rider from Seat #8 gets off the shuttle first. The other riders remain seated until their turn to exit.

The rider from Seat #4 is exiting the shuttle. The rider from Seat #3 waited to stand up until the rider ahead of them was almost to the door.

This is another situation that our boarding patterns are designed to avoid. The rider from Seat #6 is exiting the shuttle prior to the riders in Seat #7 and Seat #8, unnecessarily passing them within close quarters.

Rider Protocols

Rider Protocols have been customized to the spatial layout, traffic, and number of 128BC shuttles traveling through each station, as well as the number of stops that a particular route requires. You can view a complete list of protocols specific to each route on that route’s schedule page:

Alewife Route A-North
Alewife Route A-South
Alewife Route B
Alewife Route C
Alewife Route D
Vox on Two
REV Bus – Hartwell Area
REV Bus – Lexington Ctr
Waltham Route B

There are a number of basic Rider Protocols shared across all routes. These include asking riders to board and exit the vehicle according to the boarding patterns described above, as well as the following.

1. All 128BC/The Grid services will be fare-free until further notice.

We are working on developing contact-free methods of fare payment that will be safe for our riders and operators.

2. If telework is an option, consider staying home.

We can work with your employer to develop an office-wide telework plan, as well as other health & safety protocols.

3. If you are ill, definitely stay home.

Your Driver cannot offer a seat on the shuttle to anyone clearly displaying COVID-19 symptoms. You can find a complete list of symptoms associated with COVID-19 here.

4. Wear a mask to protect those around you, including our drivers and other shuttle riders.

You must wear a mask even if you feel healthy, as those with COVID-19 may experience little to no symptoms while still shedding infectious respiratory droplets.

Your mask should fit snugly over the bridge of your nose and extend down under your chin, covering your mouth and nose completely.

5. Make sure your mask fits properly.

Common mask mistakes include wearing your mask below your nose, hanging your mask around your neck, and wearing your mask too loosely.

6. Do not eat or drink in the waiting area or on the shuttle.

Eating or drinking would compromise your mask.

7. Quiet is Kind.

Talking less, talking more quietly, or not talking at all limit the production of the droplets and aerosols that spread the virus. Please minimize conversation in waiting areas and on the shuttle.

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.

  • Should we be taking employees’ temperatures?
  • How can we encourage adequate physical distancing?
  • Are TNCs safe to use for off-hours transportation during this time?
  • What do we do about bathrooms?
  • What about ventilation and HVAC?
  • Can we split the difference between working in-office and telework?

If you would benefit from assistance with setting up improved health and safety protocols for your organization or at your worksite, do not hesitate to reach out to our team.