PAYETTE — COVID-19 resulted in many otherwise very mobile people to stay put for much of 2020. Now that vaccines are getting economies moving again, Treasure Valley Transit is planning to help keep Payette County moving.
Terri Lindberg, representing the agency, presented its budget request to the Payette City Council at its regular meeting on June 21. The agency, which operates Snake River Transit buses in Fruitland and Payette and connects to Malheur County buses in Ontario, is not asking for an increase in city contributions for fiscal year 2022.
“It’s just to continue our services,” said Lindberg. “About this past year, we chose to maintain the service. We did not eliminate it in any way, and I’m so glad we did that.”
Lindberg reported a decrease in ridership due to COVID-19, but that did not faze agency management.
“The year prior to COVID, we had 19,345 [riders]. We were steadily increasing,” said Lindberg. “This past year, [during] COVID, we had 14,350. So that was a lot of ridership and a lot of need, so I’m very grateful that we were able to maintain the full service.”
Lindberg recounted that enhanced cleaning and plexiglass shields needed to be implemented to maintain services with the onset of COVID-19. However, even with vaccinations being widely available, the federal Transportation Security Administration has extended its requirement that all travelers on airplanes, buses and trains continue wearing a mask onboard until Sept. 13.
“We believe that has decreased some of the ridership, because there are some that refuse to ride the bus until it’s mask free,” she said. “We’ve had a very challenging year, but we’ve had a good year here.”
Despite not requesting more money for operations, the agency intends to keep offering free rides in Payette County, which started when the pandemic did.
“We intend to be fare-free going on in the future,” she added.
Councilor Mike Kee said he has received many comments about services, including several expressing gratitude for the agency doing so.
As this was not an action item, no action was taken on Lindberg’s request tonight.