Navajo Transit drivers are ready to roll
Elouise James-Young has been a bus driver for Navajo Transit for nine years and with the transit system operating again after more than a year of being shut down due to the pandemic, Elouise said she is ready to get back to work.
Of course, she is still worried about COVID-19 especially since she will be around different people in an enclosed bus when her route starts in Kayenta.
But the Navajo Nation continues to see low numbers of the virus and on June 8 the Navajo Nation reported zero new cases and no deaths.
“I’ve had both my vaccines,” said James-Young. “It’s still scary but it comes down to our education to our public since we are public transportation company. We have hand sanitizers and we require facemasks, so I think that will really help in the long run.”
Last Thursday, a few of the 39 new hybrid buses were unveiled. In 2020, the Navajo Transit System was awarded a $6 million grant to acquire the new buses through the Federal Transit Administration and in partnership with the New Mexico Department of Transportation.
“We are trying to improve our fleet to be more efficient,” said Marcus Tulley, Navajo Transit System manager. “That’s the whole point in updating our buses.”
Features of these new buses include ramps rather than lifts, which is more efficient to operate and works better for those with wheelchairs and canes, COVID barriers to keep germs at bay, upgraded air conditioning, and bike racks.
As hybrid buses, they will save fuel and reduce emissions through regenerative braking, helping to slow down and propel the vehicle during normal drive cycles. The electric motor is smooth and seamless to the driver, and no additional work is required on their part to operate the vehicle as a hybrid, according to Navajo Transit System.
Twenty-five of these buses are 20-passenger buses, 10 are 12-passenger buses; and four are eight-passenger buses. Additional buses will be used as a second bus for existing routes to accommodate overflow of passengers due to limited capacity due to social distancing guidelines on board the buses.
Navajo Transit System began transit services on the Navajo Nation on June 7. Bus fare will be waived during the COVID-19 pandemic and seats will be limited due to the COVID-19 protocols.
“It serves to not only benefit our communities, but to instill more hope and pride in our people,” stated President Jonathan Nez. “The additional hybrid buses will allow Navajo Transit System to continue providing safe and reliable public transportation for Navajo elders, students, employees, and families.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, bus services were paused for the safety of staff members and the general public. The Navajo Transit team will soon resume services and incorporate the new buses in daily routes to help with the overflow of commuters due to lower capacity levels].
“I love driving,” said James-Young. “I always have.”