Bus driver shortage, COVID-19 lead to reduced Huskie Line service

Buses+lined+up+at+the+Holmes+Student+Center+Monday.+The+COVID-19+pandemic+has+put+a+restraint+on+drivers+and+passengers.+

Patrick Murphy

Buses lined up at the Holmes Student Center Monday. The COVID-19 pandemic has put a restraint on drivers and passengers.

Elisa Reamer, Reporter

DeKALB – The Huskie Line route system is working on a reduced schedule until Feb. 14 due to a bus driver shortage. As a result, the DeKalb Public Transit is working with Transdev Services Inc. to find a solution to this shortage as soon as possible. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a restraint on drivers and passengers, said DeKalb Transit Manager Marcus Cox.

“We still need to provide a minimum, the most appropriate and the safest service that we can because even though students aren’t technically face-to-face in a classroom, there’s still people who need to get around,” Cox said. “But again, we don’t want 15 to 20 people on a bus at this time just because we want to be able to practice social distancing standards as set forth by CDC and others.” 

Melissa Ohrwall, general manager of Huskie Line, said the number of bus drivers went declined from around 56 to 39. 

“In the past, we would have driver [training] classes, 10 people at a time every week during the summer and that really helps us get the numbers we need for the fall,” Ohrwall said. “Now, we don’t have the space to do that safely, so we had to limit our class sizes down, which is really thin, which really hindered us as well” 

Ohrwall has increased recruiting efforts when the pandemic didn’t allow for their regular recruiting strategies.

She said she hopes to hold larger class sizes during the summer again, but the bus system must follow all CDC recommendations. Ohrwall said she is looking into renting bigger areas in order to hold bigger class sizes safely. 

“In order to have the least impact on NIU students, we’ve tried to increase frequency,” Ohrwall said. “Some of the routes would take 30 minutes, and now they are 20 minutes, which is only possible because there’s less people, so the busses can ride around faster.”

The reduced schedule for the Huskie Line can be found here.