As the calendar turns to summer, there are hopeful signs all around us. We see the economy improving, traffic picking up on roads, airports and ferries, and vacation plans taking shape. There have been in-person graduations and sports events, as well us families reuniting after more than a year of staying home.
It feels good to feel hopeful again, because let’s face it, the past year and a half has been especially challenging and even lonely for many people. Through it all, we can be proud at Community Transit that we’ve been able to provide essential mobility to our customers without missing a day of service through the pandemic, helping people get to work, get food for their families, and get to medical appointments.
We can also be proud of our effort to beat back the virus. We’ve taken steps to control the spread at our operating bases and worked hard to keep riders safe while riding. As case counts trend downward, I want to spotlight a few key things we are focusing on as we pivot to planning for brighter days ahead.
- Refresher Training: Every year at Community Transit bus drivers participate in a refresher training course focusing on updating defensive driving and customer service skills. The theme of this year’s training is “Community is Us,” to help prep drivers to greet customers returning to transit and changing their routines after a year away. It’s one small thing we can do to recognize that the community is experiencing changes in routine after living through the anxiety of the global pandemic.
- Vaccinations: The best piece of news from the past few months is the COVID-19 vaccine is now widely available. Public health officials worldwide maintain that vaccination is the key ingredient in putting the pandemic behind us, just as it has been for diseases of the past such as polio, mumps and measles. Community Transit is offering free bus and paratransit rides to anyone who needs the vaccine. We’ve made it easy because we want as many people as possible to get the vaccine. Customers can simply tell their driver that they are going to or from an appointment for their vaccine. No questions asked, no papers or other proof are required.
In thinking about our community and vaccines, we’ve also been inspired to get creative. In May, we launched an internal program to incentivize Community Transit employees to get the vaccine. As we reach key milestones, all employees receive a financial award.
- On-Board Safety Systems: As more places and activities begin to fully open, I’m excited to share some improvements and new transit services on the horizon to ensure buses are clean and safe. We are welcoming back customers with upgraded air filtration on all Community Transit buses. The buses continue to be disinfected daily, and drivers and customers are required to wear masks on board.
- System Expansion: In addition to returning customers, we hope to welcome new customers, too. We are exploring services such as microtransit, a flexible, on-demand ride service that customers could schedule when they need it. A microtransit pilot is planned for Lynnwood next year. Federal funding will also allow us to expand our Swift Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network within the county and serve even more customers, bringing them to light rail stations that will come online in 2024.
There’s so much to look forward to, and I look forward to sharing the ride!