Public transit company is keeping Payette County moving with free rides during pandemic

A Snake River Transit bus is pictured in September of 2019. Treasure Valley Transit has made bus rides free for passengers of Snake River Transit - Idaho.

PAYETTE COUNTY Last week, the newspaper detailed Malheur County’s efforts to keep public transit safe during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday, Treasure Valley Transit shared with the newspaper its efforts specific to its route for Snake River Transit - Idaho, which serves the cities of Fruitland and Payette with a connection to the Ontario city route.

In an email, Treasure Valley Transit Mobility Manager Miranda Murray explained the agency’s efforts to keep Payette County riders safe.

“The buses seat 20 passengers so there is the ability to social distance,” wrote Murray. “When the pandemic arrived in March our ridership declined by 33%.  In April it was down 38% and May 49%.  In June ridership increased to 77% of normal.  The comparison is from each month of the previous year.  Ridership from March through June totaled 4,032.”

While not required to be used under Idaho’s coronavirus protocols, Murray said ventilation is available to passengers if they need it.

“The bus has small windows that can be opened by the passenger to increase air flow if desired,” she said.

While not required, Murray points out that masks are strongly suggested in Idaho.

“We do provide masks for passengers who do not have them as long as our supplies last,” she said.

So far, Murray says feedback from riders has been positive.

“The passengers feel safe and confident while riding the bus,” she says. T”he enhanced cleaning protocols in place follow the CDC guidelines.”

Murray said the Idaho Transportation Department - Division of Public Transit is using money from the CARES Act to purchase cleaning supplies, KN95 masks and gloves for bus drivers.

She further added that riders don’t need to search their pockets or purses for change for the fare box until further notice.

“Currently the route is fare free throughout the duration of the pandemic,” said Murray. “We are exploring the option of fare free service in the future similar to McCall and Mountain Home.”

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