Transit systems large and small face short-term, mid-range and long term challenges caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. Normal patterns of commuting and travel have been disrupted and the “new normal” is still to emerge. Throw into this mix the need to keep front-line employees safe, loss of revenue, and a myriad of other difficulties – the need for innovative approaches has never been more imperative. A panel of transit operators discussed their response to the pandemic, their mid-range operational changes, and then their longer term response including the opportunity to strategically re-think how mobility is delivered.
During this hour-long session, participants heard from transportation providers from across the country in how they have shifted to ensuring safety for both their staff and their riders. As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to impact our communities, our definitions of safety, security, and public health have taken on new meanings and required new protocols. Through a virtual panel discussion, three providers discussed how they have innovatively embraced new procedures, handled setbacks, and share lessons learned from their communities.
With the arrival of the CARES Act funds for rural and urban transit, it once seemed that many CTAA members’ only challenge would be spending their allocations. Of course, the short term and long-term realities for these agencies in terms of ridership, state/local funding, operating costs and yes, even capital projects has led to a different conclusion: how long will CARES Act funds last — and will it be long enough to get us through the long-term recovery from the global COVID-19 pandemic. And keep in mind, many CTAA members were not eligible for CARES Act relief. This session explored how to use CARES Act funds in concert with new-found flexibility offered by FTA in local share and operating and capital funds to best maintain operations in both the short and long term. A panel with expertise at the rural, small-urban and state DOT levels will come to grips with the reality of funding during a pandemic, and most importantly after the pandemic and into whatever new normal emerges.
Returning back to work means having policies and regulations to ensure that your staff understands the expectation and requirements that have been established for a new and different work environment. Focusing on essential factors that incorporate policies and procedures addressing the return to work COVID-19 impact will mean defining how to operate with clarity, establishing policies uniformly and consistently, clearly defining expectations.
As transportation providers move toward rebuilding ridership, it will be important to address two issues: 1) quantify the impact of COVID-19 on transit usage, and 2) positively and effectively communicate steps transportation agencies are taking, including interaction with local health authorities, to ensure the safety of their services for riders. This session featured promising practices from transportation providers, including effective interaction with the business community.
The Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) and its members believe that mobility is a basic human right. From work and education to life-sustaining health care and human services programs to shopping and visiting with family and friends, mobility directly impacts quality of life.