Local shuttle companies are adapting to the coronavirus outbreak with more flexible policies and new revenue sources.
With the University’s decision to cancel school-sponsored gatherings larger than 50 people and discourage nonessential travel, businesses like Express Air Coach that provide airport-shuttle and private-charter services are getting hit hard.
“We are in the business of taking large groups of people to large events. Obviously those are all being canceled, so this is having a devastating effect on the bus and motorcoach industry,” said Paul Davis, owner of EAC. “You hear a lot about the airline and cruise industry, but the busing industry is taking a major hit as well.”
Reindeer Shuttle announced in a Facebook post Thursday it is temporarily waiving its change fee for ticket modifications and extending ticket suspensions to six months. Lafayette Limo does not have a change fee and extended ticket suspensions to a year. Reindeer Shuttle was unavailable for further comment due to a high volume of requests.
Shuttle companies have also heightened cleaning protocols for buses. Lafayette Limo drivers are instructed to wipe down commonly touched surfaces each time new people get on the bus. They deep clean the buses by mopping them down every night.
“Our main goal is to try and, obviously, provide our service, continue to operate and provide a community with as well as protecting them, you know, during these times,” said Nathan Florian, operating manager of Lafayette Limo. “(We’re) trying to swap buses out, maybe even in between so new buses running the next route rather than potentially the same bus running two routes.”
As income decreases due to cancellations, some companies are getting creative in finding sources of income. Lafayette Limo is thinking about how others could benefit from their mobile units equipped with outlets and WiFi.
“We're looking into ideas — maybe a mobile daycare service or delivering toilet paper to the supermarket, might be a helpful thing that we can provide,” Florian said. “It’s something we’re trying to do, adjust to and adjust on the fly, and it's difficult to think of doing something that doesn't involve transporting people.”
Davis echoed the sentiment, saying the business is in a state of limbo in the uncertain times.
“We will have a better idea next week of the full impact once we see how many people return to campus,” Davis said. “It’s hard to plan for this because we don’t really know how long this will continue.”
The outbreak is proving a challenge for transportation companies to stay afloat when the activities they rely on are discouraged.
“We're here to help,” Florian said. “And we're here to try and make it a safe environment for anyone that is needing to travel."