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N4T Investigators: Bus Barriers

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TUCSON (KVOA) - You can be denied transportation for refusing to wear a face-covering on a Sun Tran bus. According to signs posted at transit centers, drivers are supposed to wear masks too.

However, a concerned rider who asked to remain anonymous took a video of a driver operating a Sun Tran bus without a face mask on and sent it to the News 4 Tucson Investigators.

"Our bus drivers are around a lot of people and so them staying covered is especially important," Teresa Fichter, a woman who works across from a Sun Tran transit center said.

Other people appeared to be worried about their safety on the bus as well.

"I think if we have to wear a mask, I think everybody has to wear a mask," Juan Soto, a bus rider said.

In a statement, a Sun Tran spokesperson said, "Drivers must wear a face-covering any time they directly interact with a passenger. This includes providing assistance with boarding, securing a mobility device, and answering questions. And in preparation for when we return to fare collection, drivers are also required to wear a face-covering whenever servicing a stop."

Still, that didn't explain why the driver in the video was not wearing a mask. A Sun Tran spokesperson said they don't know but will review mask policies and procedures with the driver in the video.

The problem seemed to be solved but then the News 4 Tucson Investigators heard more complaints of unmasked drivers. So we went to find out how widespread the issue really was.

After visiting two Sun Tran transit centers and riding two buses we found there were some safety measures in place such as dividers, areas of the front of the bus roped off from passengers and shields to isolate drivers.

A spokesperson for Sun Tran also said the buses are routinely sanitized.

"That shield might stop it but I think they should have a mask," Soto said.

During our visit, we saw one driver stopped at the transit center with his mask pulled down. Four other drivers, some who were in transit and others who were in idle were also without masks. In fact, one of our own bus drivers did not have a mask on during our ride.

So we took our new finding back to Sun Tran.

In a statement, they said, "Drivers are required to have their face covered if the bus is at a stop and either one of the doors is open, or if someone is within 6 feet of them.  We will speak to the driver shown in one of your photos with the front door open.  And we will continue to speak to all drivers about this policy."

"It shows that there's room to be more cautious," Fichter said.

Passengers broke the rules too. During one of our rides, we saw two riders with their masks pulled down.

At no point during that ride did our driver ever ask the riders to put their masks on.

Alexis Berdine

Alexis Berdine is an Investigative Multi-Media Journalist at KVOA.

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