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A New Normal for Public Transit

Northwest region drivers pose outside of the office in St. Joseph, MO with a sign.

As initial coronavirus reports started to emerge in the United States in early 2020, OATS Transit began developing a plan should this virus affect Missouri. We had to figure out how we could continue being there for the communities who depend on us, while at the same time protecting our drivers and riders.

From the very beginning, public transit was considered an essential service. We had to quickly learn to adapt to the needs of the individuals and businesses we serve. We are now living in a world changed by the coronavirus pandemic, and this has created anxiety for many. As fears spread, these challenges have become of the utmost importance, and one that our company officials are considering to be the “new norm.”

We adopted healthier habits early on that we would carry throughout our vehicles and facilities. Extra precautions were put in place to ensure the safety of those on board the bus. This has been a big change for all drivers including Carolyn Toney.

Carolyn is a driver in OATS Northwest region where she has worked since 1991. She has seen a lot of changes to her usual Daviess county route since the beginning of the pandemic. She hasn’t quite experienced anything like this on the job before. Despite everything though, Carolyn still enjoys working with the public. “The riders are great,” she said. “We have all really worked together to help each other out during the pandemic.”

Whether you ride public transit or go out in the community, we all play a role in increased situational awareness. You can limit your exposure to germs by doing your part to be being aware of your surroundings and changing typical behaviors. This helps protect your health and the health of your fellow passengers and drivers.

Precautions we have put into place for the foreseeable future include the following:

  • Riders are asked to wear masks/face coverings while on board the bus to reduce the spread of germs.

  • Riders should refrain from riding the bus if experiencing a fever or other forms of sickness. If you are sick, or have had recent contact with someone with coronavirus, do not board the bus until it’s deemed safe to do so.

  • Social distancing requirements are still in place on our buses and probably will be for some time. Seating capacity has been reduced to help us maintain proper distance and reduce the spread of germs.

  • Wash your hand often with soap and water- before and after boarding the bus - and even during your trip if you can. If soap and water are not accessible, use hand sanitizer.

  • If you are using a wheelchair, please turn your head when the driver is securing your wheelchair to limit their exposure to germs.

  • Drivers are cleaning the buses on a routine basis. Our drivers are supplied with personal protective equipment to help them with this additional duty and to ensure your bus is clean and properly sanitized.

East region driver Alex Evans leaves the Bridgeton office on his bus that is equipped with a safety shield.

We have no doubt that OATS Transit will bounce back from this crisis. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to flip a switch and have full service the way it was in past anytime soon. We are using a phased in approach, and may even see a resurgence of cases that we have to deal with.

We ask for your patience and understanding with our schedulers and drivers as they navigate unprecedented and challenging hurdles to accommodate our thousands of customers across the state of Missouri. For up to date information from OATS Transit on service in your area, please visit our coronavirus resource page on the web at

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