WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The NAVFAC Washington Transportation Team operating out of Public Works Department Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB) is set to resume transportation services to federal workers and military members serving at the Pentagon and installations throughout the National Capital Region on Tuesday, May 26.
Shuttle services have been shut down for nearly two months in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and getting the buses back on the road while the region is still in an elevated health protection condition presents a list of steep challenges to overcome.
“The biggest concern is protecting our people and making sure they stay safe,” said John Michael Eichstadt, Public Works JBAB Transportation Director.
With that mantra in mind, passengers and DoD civilian operators will be required to wear face coverings at all times and shuttle capacity is being reduced by more than half to create distance between those onboard. Operators are tasked daily with monitoring any signs or symptoms of illness they have and are being given the authority to deny services to passengers who do not adhere to the rules in order to keep everyone utilizing the shuttles as safe as possible.
JBAB Transportation maintains regular communication with Washington Headquarters Services and other local and regional authorities in order to maximize the ability to adhere to CDC health guidance for mass transit. As such, transportation services will also operate on a shorter schedule allowing for more time to clean the shuttles.
“Normally we would run a bus all day and at the end of the day we would do a light cleaning and once a week we would do a heavy wipe down and material cleaning. The heavy cleaning has become daily,” Eichstadt said. “We’re also spraying a disinfectant aerosol into the HVAC system which will help to disinfect bacteria and windows will remain open as much as possible.”
Another challenge is the proximity between passengers and operators as the passengers board and disembark the shuttles.
“The transportation team here at JBAB put their heads together to come up with a low-cost solution to provide operators the ability to be protected while meeting the minimum force protection requirement of viewing the ID card of all passengers,” Eichstadt said.
The solution consisted of simple materials: clear plastic shower curtains, framing wire and some screws. The result is a see-through, protected enclosure which can be easily manipulated by the operator while providing the required protection from possible accidental direct exposure. The materials for each enclosure totaled approximately $20 and took just an hour to install.
The straightforward but effective enclosure solution falls in line with the character of a transportation department that has remained steadfast while services have been shut down. Maintenance as always is a top priority and teammates have pitched in around the public works department repairing fences, assisting with landscaping and providing basic COVID-19 screening support at site entrances.
“What has been pleasing is how willing the personnel in transportation are to step outside their comfort zones and position descriptions,” Eichstadt said. “Transportation provides services in a confined environment with people we don’t know. What has been pleasing is to see our personnel step up, even through their own fears, and say ‘We can do this’.”