There is such a thing as a free ride -- with GoBus

by Cristin Parker
Courtesy photo
GoBus drivers are keeping their vehicles clean as a whistle for their riders. Courtesy photo
GoBus drivers are keeping their vehicles clean as a whistle for their riders.

All citizens can get free rides to their essential destinations now, thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Officials with the East Texas Council of Governments’ (ETCOG) GoBus service. have suspended ride fares in an effort to minimize contact while continuing to offer safe, reliable public transportation to the rural areas in East Texas.

“GoBus will not collect fares from passengers at this time,” the program’s website states. “This will limit interactions between our drivers and passengers.

“With new program leadership, GoBus prioritized trip efficiency and consolidation this year. Due to these changes, GoBus was able to drastically reduce overtime and increase ridership by 19 percent in East Texas.”

With about 30 vehicles on the road, GoBus drivers make between 500 and 800 trips a day, five days a week, across a 10,000 square mile region spanning Anderson, Camp, Cherokee, Harrison, Henderson, Marion, Panola, Rains, Rusk, Upshur, Van Zandt, and Wood counties.

“We offer Demand Response service within Cherokee County from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday,” the program’s Facebook page states. “Trips are reservation based and must be made at least 24 hours in advance and are first come, first serviced, based on availability. Out of county service to Tyler is on Tuesdays.

“Approximate arrival time into Tyler is 10 a.m. and departure time is 2 p.m.”

Francine, a resident of Cherokee County, stated on the GoBus webpage, found on ETCOG’s website, “I’m grateful for GoBus. My usual driver is Albert and he is one of the best -- professional and friendly. All dispatchers do a very good job and always get my schedule right.”

To book a ride, call 1-800-590-3371 or visit at least 24 hours in advance. GoBus began restricting rides to essential trips only on March 26.

Essential trips are defined as trips the to the pharmacy, healthcare professionals, dentists and veterinarians; grocery, hardware and convenience stores; government, utility, legal, accounting, insurance and media offices; post offices; banks; service providers like plumbers, electricians, etc.; and laundromats.

“ETCOG and GoBus would like to ensure our partners of the increased measures we have implemented to supplement the more common steps individuals can take to protect themselves from the virus,” officials stated on ETCOG’s website.

GoBus has adopted preventive practices from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA)’s Guide for Public Transportation Pandemic Planning and Response and will continue to make any necessary changes recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

All drivers have implemented these precautions:

• Extra hand washing - GoBus has required drivers to wash hands as frequently as possible and utilize hand sanitizer when soap and water are not readily available.

• Wearing gloves - GoBus vehicle operators have been encouraged to wear gloves when necessary.

• Disinfecting vehicles twice a day - Vehicles are sprayed with an EPA certified disinfectant twice daily (mid-day and end-of-day), paying close attention to handrails, armrests and seat backs.