Ada’s Call-a-Ride and Pauls Valley’s Delta Public Transit announced Tuesday that the two agencies are receiving nearly $163,000 in state Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) funding to assist in the purchase of personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies. The announcement was made during a short press conference at Call-a-Ride in Latta.
“The health and welfare of our passengers is the number one priority of Call-a-Ride,” said Call-a-Ride Director Mike Butler. “This emergency relief funding from the state is significant for us to increase our safety protocols while at the same time saving our transit CARES dollars for other operating needs during this pandemic.”
Oklahoma’s public transit systems have been severely impacted by the decreased ridership and higher operational costs due to COVID-19. In late August, Gov. Kevin Stitt and Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) Secretary Tim Gatz announced that $6 million in federal CARES Act funding would be directed to ODOT for the Protect Transit project that includes support in purchasing Personal Protection Equipment and cleaning supplies for public transit agencies statewide.
“It’s good to see Call-a-Ride and Delta Public Transit working to protect riders and drivers in southern Oklahoma from the spread of COVID-19,” Secretary of Transportation and ODOT Executive Director Tim Gatz said. “ODOT is very pleased to help provide this CARES Act funding for personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies for numerous organizations that provide critical transportation services in Oklahoma.”
“During this health crisis, transit systems across Oklahoma have continued to perform their daily service to thousands of Oklahomans who depend upon transit as their only means to get to life-saving medical appointments, to grocery stores, pharmacies and other shopping locations, to work and to other essential places,” said Oklahoma Transit Association Chief Executive Officer Mark C. Nestlen. “Systems statewide have increased safety precautions in a variety of ways including increased and deeper cleanings, personal protective actions, social distancing, changes in operating procedures and following all CDC recommendations.”
“Rural transit is essential to the wellbeing of our citizens, communities and the state’s economy,” said state Rep. Ronny Johns (R-Ada). “The importance of transit has been magnified during the COVID-19 pandemic with systems continuing to meet the critical transportation needs of Oklahomans while at the same time increasing safety and health standards. I’d like to express my praise and appreciation to Call-a-Ride’s director Mike Butler who does what it takes to ensure our citizens can get to where they need to go safely and efficiently not just during this pandemic, but always.”
Johns, who serves as vice chair of the House Transportation Committee, said that in the long-term, the legislature must address the viability of Oklahoma’s transit system once the pandemic subsides. “Public transit will be a major component of Oklahoma’s economic recovery. Without an effective public transit system operating seamlessly statewide within and between rural and urban Oklahoma, a recovery will be slow at best, if at all,” he concluded.
In addition to PPE and cleaning supplies, both Call-a-Ride and Delta Public Transit are using the state CARES dollars to install the ProAir HEPA-3 filtration system combined with UV light to eliminate harmful airborne particulates to protect both passengers and drivers. “The HEPA-3 system will purify the air and reduce the potential of COVID-19 contamination on the vehicles,” said Brent Roy of Creative Bus Sales.
Call-a-Ride and Delta Public Transit are rural public transportation systems dedicated to providing excellence in transportation through mobility that promotes self-sufficiency, independence and improves the quality of life while stimulating economic development with the provision of safe, reliable, affordable and accessible transportation services for the public. Call-a-Ride primarily serves residents of Pontotoc County. Delta Public Transit serves the residents of Garvin and McClain counties and is a program under the Delta Community Action Foundation whose Executive Director is Karen Nichols.
“This state CARES Act funding is critical to our ability to keep the buses running,” said Delta Public Transit Director Terrell Turman said. “In the short-term costs have gone up, revenue has gone down, hours have got longer, and the responsibilities to the community have increased. We appreciate Governor Stitt and Secretary Gatz recognizing the critical need and financially assisting our transit systems during the pandemic.”
Both Call-a-Ride and Delta Public Transit are members of the Oklahoma Transit Association (OTA). Founded in 1983, OTA is the state’s voice for public transit. OTA’s membership is comprised of the 35 urban, small urban rural and tribal transit agencies in the state who share the common priority of providing and improving mobility and access for all Oklahoman’s. Industry-related vendors and professionals who share that vision also belong to OTA through its Associate Member Program. OTA’s mission is to support public transit through advocacy, education, communication and partnerships. The organization’s vision is to be distinguished as a leader in the public transit industry by facilitating the enhancement of mobility and access for all Oklahomans.