Electric bus company BYD just delivered its first new buses in the U.S. in a long while. The company had to temporarily close its U.S. factory back in March because of the Covid-19 pandemic but has now re-started production. With vehicles running down the line again, BYD was able to send two of its 35-foot, battery-electric K9S buses to the public transportation company Link Transit in Wenatchee, Washington this month, finally completing an order of 10 that the city had placed. The first eight had been delivered before the Covid shut-down, and Link Transit general manager Richard DeRock said in a statement that the EVs, “have far exceeded our expectations with their performance” when they’ve been able to be used.
So far, so normal for 2020. But there’s more, and it’s not likely to make the the people running Link Transit – or any other public transportation authority – feel at ease.
The “more” is some consumer data that Dynata has just released, based on a survey of 11,000 people around the world regarding their feelings about riding public transportation with the coronavirus still prevalent. It shouldn’t be a surprise that people don’t feel totally comfortable getting on a bus or a train right now and that current public transportation usage levels are down to around 60 percent of what they normally are. A number of factors, like more people working from home as well as people taking fewer trips than they normally would, given the potential dangers of being out and about these days, play into this decrease.
Thankfully, there are things that Link Transit (or, obviously, any transit agency) can do to make their riders feel more comfortable getting on board. Having staff and riders wear masks, using social distancing when getting on and off the bus or train and restricting the number of people on board to encourage social distancing are all things that people said would make them more comfortable riding again. Keeping buses and trains clean – and letting riders know what steps are being taken – would also help. But not for everyone. Dynata found that for over 10 percent of the people they surveyed, none of these steps would make them more comfortable getting back on board.
To come up with its results, Dynata surveyed at least 1,000 people in 11 countries (the U.S., Canada, the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, China, Singapore and Australia).
BYD is a Chinese company, and its BYD North America arm builds the K9S buses in Lancaster, California. The 32-seat buses have a range of up to 215 miles and take around 4 hours to charge.