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Bus Ridership in Umeå Drops by Over 50%; Environmentalists Encourage Biking, Ridesharing

Umeå’s city buses are experiencing a “dramatic” loss of customers.

ÅLIDHEM – Länstrafiken, Umeå’s city bus operator, said today that during the coronavirus crisis, ridership has decreased by more than half, compared to 2019.

These numbers are dramatic,” said Länstrafiken CEO Harriet Söder in an interview with SVT, “and it is having a very noticeable financial effect.”

“Nobody knows when we will return to some kind of normality,” she said. “Will our financial support — towns, cities, and the county — allow us to afford the same extent of public transit in the future as today?”

The numbers do not include children and teenagers using special tickets to go to school. “That is because we want to be able to document people who actually choose travel with us, and pay to do so,” Söder told Umeå Today.

In recent years, public transit use had doubled in Umeå, and Länstrafiken says it had originally hoped to reach 10 million journeys in 2020. This year, city buses were moved to a reduced summer schedule on March 30, to account for the loss of customers.

Yesterday, Västerbotten officials suggested that Umebor may be travelling by cars more often than usual, in order to stay isolated and avoid spreading the coronavirus. Environmentalists have worried that this will increase the city’s carbon footprint. In response, Dylan Stiegemeier, head of Umeå grassroots conservationist organization The Theodores, told Umeå Today, “Biking is always a good option in Umeå. The city does a great job of building and plowing the bike lanes.”

The Theodores’ head Dylan Steigemeier’s children enjoying riding in a bike trailer. -D. Stiegemeier

“The electric bike pools are pretty neat if you need to go shopping or move bigger items or shuttle kids around,” he added. For people who cannot travel by bicycle, Stiegemeier suggested carpooling, particularly via the nonprofit ridesharing organization Skutsgruppen.

Some of this summer’s Umeå Live performances may be cancelled.

Visit Umeå, which promotes tourism for the city, announced today that it has not been able to confirm certain performers for 2020 Umeå Live concerts, last year held on Wednesday and Friday nights throughout the summer on Rådhustorget and Broparken.

“Our hope is still to be able to put on some Umeå Live events before the summer is over,” said Gabriella Hed Vall, Visit Umeå’s events manager. “We are ready for when the restrictions against large crowds of people change.”

Umeå Live in 2018. -Fredrik Larsson

“The purpose of Umeå Live is to create liveliness and movement, and help make Umeå a lovely summer city, ” said Vall.

The Church of Sweden is postponing Umeå confirmation camps until next summer.

The Church of Sweden in Umeå said this morning that the pandemic has made it impossible to hold confirmation camps this year. Confirmation camps combine summer camp-type activities with devotional practices, in order to prepare church members in their early teens for the rite of confirmation, marking their transition to adulthood.

Young people who wish to be confirmed this year may be able to take part in a “confirmation at a distance” program, or join a confirmation camp over Christmas.

“We make this decision with great sadness in our hearts,” said Umeå Vicar Lena Fagéus. “At the same time, I’m happy and proud that our team, working with the confirmands, have found a different way to meet with young people and offer confirmation.”

266 young people from Umeå were scheduled to go to a summer confirmation camp, the church said.

Family and friends will be banned from Umeå school graduations this year.

The city of Umeå announced today that visitors will be prohibited from school graduation ceremonies, in order to reduce the risk of coronavirus spread. Graduations will be held in classrooms, rather than the usual schoolyards. Administrators say they are looking into the possibility of webcasting the graduations for an online audience.

“If people gather in schoolyards, the principal will have to cancel the ceremony,” Pontus Clarin, a secondary school administrator explained. “It’s boring, but unfortunately necessary.”

“Although it will not be a traditional graduation, it feels important to have a nice one, before the summer holidays,” said Ann-Christine Gradin, Umeå’s education director. “We hope that people understand that everyone has to adapt to the serious situation we’re in.”

The ban applies both to secondary and primary schools.

The total number of confirmed coronavirus infections in Västerbotten increased by seven in the past day, to a total of 343. The number of people in the hospital, in intensive care, and the total death tally all remained the same at 17, 9, and 17 respectively.

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