Business View Civil and Municipal | Volume 2, Issue 6

22 CIVIL AND MUNICIPAL VOLUME 2, ISSUE 6 AT A GLANCE VALLEY TRANSIT WHAT: Municipally-owned transit corporation WHERE: Walla Walla County, Washington WEBSITE: IT T he extraordinary restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic over the last 15 months have represented a unique situation for everyone. For Valley Transit –Walla Walla County, Washington’s municipally-owned transit corporation – these constraints have also become valuable trade-offs for putting their strategic plans to the test and assessing their readiness for change. In the early months of 2020, the public transit operator, which runs eight bus routes (Fixed and Flex routes) in the Walla Walla/College Place area, as well as Paratransit/Dial-a-Ride, Job Access, Vanpool, and Plus services, was in the beginning stages of a Comprehensive Operations Analysis (COA). Having recently completed that evaluation, Valley Transit is now contemplating a roadmap to deliver on the recommendations for improved service and performance. This time last year, Valley Transit was reporting a ridership of 700,000, about 30,000 of which were Dial-a-Ride passengers and 14,000 Vanpool and Job Access users. According to Valley Transit General Manager Angie Peters, “That’s obviously changed significantly. Pre-pandemic, around 24 percent of ridership consisted of students and others under the age of 18. That number has gone down a bit, with so much of schooling done remotely over the last year. Right now, we’re closer to 18-19 percent student ridership, but that difference in percentage created a pendulum swing over to essential workers. In other words, our role throughout the pandemic has largely been to take people to their essential jobs or to access essential services.” Supply chain was another problem factor that amplified the impact of the pandemic. “Our Procurement Specialist, Dave Kopf, has always been a valuable employee, but he really put his money where his mouth was during the pandemic,” says Peters. “He put us in an excellent position by analysing some of the trends in the larger markets. He even researched the outcomes of the Influenza pandemic of 1918. Because of that, we were able to predict some of the best practices suitable and to purchase personal protective materials before they became unavailable due to high market demand.” Ingenuity was a theme for the whole team during 2020. Early in the pandemic no one could purchase cloth masks, and those were Providing access and flexibility