The University of Maryland Residence Hall Association Senate passed a resolution Tuesday by a vote of 17-3-1 encouraging riders to wear masks on public transportation.
The resolution supports bus drivers and the Department of Transportation Services management in enforcing the Prince George’s County indoor mask mandate, said Nicholas Marks, RHA Senator and the resolution’s sponsor.
“We stand with the bus drivers,” Marks said.
According to the resolution, the governing body encourages mask-wearing “until the Centers for Disease Control declares COVID-19 as an endemic and UMD has lifted mask restrictions for the vaccinated.”
The resolution also asserts that “drivers and passengers are often subjected to unsafe conditions due to mask mandate non-compliant bus-riders according to DOTS.”
Nathan Sparks, who drives Shuttle-UM buses part-time, said that the Orange bus was packed when he drove the bus one night this month. It seemed like some students did not expect to be required to wear a mask while onboard, Sparks said.
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“I prompted them like, ‘Hey, you need to be wearing a mask,’ and the shock that I see … we’re in a pandemic. Have you not been aware of what’s going on in the world?” Sparks said. “It’s one thing to not be wearing a mask but also [to] not be carrying one to wear is what shocked me the most.”
In a statement to The Diamondback, DOTS wrote that it adheres to “the university’s masking policy, which requires everyone to wear a mask in public indoor spaces and on Shuttle-UM buses, regardless of vaccination status. Masks have been required for everyone aboard Shuttle-UM buses since the Fall 2020 semester.”
Nancy Vaughn, who drives the #104 Shuttle-UM bus, said she regularly sees students who get on the bus with a mask on, but the riders take them off once they sit down.
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Last week, Vaughn said someone got on the bus and told her that they did not have a mask. When she told them that they could not ride her bus without a mask, “He kind of cursed me out getting off the bus, but he got off,” she said.
Both Sparks and Vaughn said that they have noticed and heard from other drivers that students riding the buses that run at night near the bars on Route 1 cause the biggest problems.
“When they’re drunk, they’re disrespectful,” Vaughn said. “They don’t want to wear a mask.”
RHA Senator Daniel Oyebola said that when he does school work in the Pyon-Chen study rooms, he can see the La Plata bus stop that the Green and Orange lines travel through on weekend nights.
The buses that pick people up on weekend nights are often “jam packed” and are sometimes so full that he has seen what looked like riders being denied, Oyebola said.
It’s important for everyone who rides the bus to wear a mask because there is still uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, Vaughn said.
“[Wearing a mask is important for] the safety of me and everybody else,” Vaughn said. “We don’t know what’s going on. They’re still saying that the virus is decreasing but you still have places where it’s still not.”