Dial-A-Ride hits lows during Pandemic
Tue, 03/16/2021 - 1:11pm caleb
Crawford County Transportation Authority ridership numbers are down but rise expected
Kinzie Nena | Staff Writer
In Grayling it is often commonplace to see one of the many large gray Crawford County Transportation Authority buses moving about, transporting passengers to many different locations, offering services from Grayling, Frederic, Maple Forest, Beaver Creek, South Branch, Roscommon, and Lovells with maintained schedules to help citizens plan ahead and get where they need to go. During the COVID-19 pandemic all local businesses have felt the strain and stress of keeping their doors open, and bus doors are no different.
“Our ridership in 2020 just plummeted for the obvious reason. 2021 is looking a little brighter for us, we seem to be a bit busier and people are starting to feel more comfortable using public transportation again. We are at about 70 percent ridership compared to 2019,” said Julee Dean, Executive Director of the CCTA.
There have been different hurdles and standards that all businesses have had to overcome and meet, many of which have become common and not out of the ordinary anymore. Masks and social distancing is, as always, the easiest and first line of safety and defense. The safety of drivers, passengers, and CCTA employees is Dean’s first priority.
“Buses are now equipped with a touch-free hand sanitizer and everyone is required to wear a mask when using public transportation. We purchased a disinfecting/sanitizing sprayer that is used inside the buses at the end of the day. Buses are still hand cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis,” said Dean.
Currently the CCTA has a fleet of 16 buses and three vans. All of the buses are equipped with wheelchair lift equipment to better serve as many citizens in the community as possible.
Inside the CCTA offices they follow all the same regulations as other businesses; masks and social distancing, stickers on the floor and plexiglass barriers to separate employees, and all doorknobs and light switches are sanitized on a daily basis. All things in line with being compliant with new rules as they come, according to Dean.
“We're ready to get through COVID, as is everybody. We are all looking forward to serving our community in that capacity that we used to. We will eventually get there,” said Dean.
Along with the changes to the buses and building, other changes were needed and had to be implemented to help cope with the strain brought on by COVID-19. CCTA had to remove Saturday services, but they hope to return to Saturday services very soon, according to Dean.
“About half of CCTA employees went on voluntary unemployment at the start of the pandemic. It worked out well because we did not have a need for all employees working at that time. When school resumed and ridership started to increase, I needed all of those employees back to run smoothly and efficiently,” said Dean.
Dial-A-Ride is a federally and state funded resource; it does not rely or survive off of passenger fares. The CCTA is not looking to increase fare prices as they are, as it understands that many who use public transportation also struggle to make ends meet every day, according to Dean.
Fares inside the county are currently posted as fifty cents for children, those with disabilities, and seniors, adults pay a dollar per ride.
“We try to let people know that we have their safety in mind. The hand sanitizers (in buses), wearing masks, and keeping the buses disinfected helps most feel more comfortable. I’m sure our ridership will return back to 2019 numbers once the pandemic is officially in the past,” said Dean.
While employees seem to be handling the changes and lingering pandemic with professionalism and acceptance, they do face some of the same issues as any business or store with some riders not wanting to adhere to the health and safety standards. But on a bus, in close quarters, the mask requirement is non-negotiable, according to Dean.
“Making bus transportation safe for everyone is our number one priority. I would just like to thank the community for their continued support of Dial-A-Ride,” said Dean.
You can contact the CCTA Dial-A-Ride for transportation at (989) 348-5409.