Congressional panel highlights rural transit leaders’ innovation amid COVID-19

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The officers on Tuesday instructed members of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation and Neighborhood Growth that they’d rapidly scaled up cleansing and COVID-19 mitigation measures final yr because the sickness bore down on the area and shifted their companies to higher present for purchasers.

And lots of of these practices may stay in place, they mentioned as transit suppliers transition out of the pandemic.

U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., who chairs the subcommittee, mentioned she’d teamed up with Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., to assist increase transit investments in rural communities and lauded the teams for his or her resilience in the course of the pandemic.

“It strikes me that as this yr has been so devastating to so many Individuals, we now have seen on the identical time actually essential leaps ahead in innovation and making an attempt new issues and figuring issues out in numerous methods,” Smith mentioned.

Throughout the nation, rural transit suppliers took a success in ridership in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, administrators instructed the committee. And firm leaders mentioned they pivoted to transporting sufferers searching for COVID-19 assessments or vaccines and to delivering meals to those that struggled to entry them.

Brandon Nurmi, assistant director for Arrowhead Transit in northeastern Minnesota, mentioned that between Might of 2020 and 2021, Arrowhead Transit via the Coronavirus Meals Help Program delivered meal bins, faculty lunches and different meals helps to 95,165 people in 35,499 households.

“One of many actually massive issues we have been capable of study throughout COVID is all of the totally different neighborhood companions that we now have within the space and all of the totally different companies that we may do with all of those totally different companions,” Nurmi mentioned.

Nurmi mentioned he hoped that these new relationships would enable Arrowhead Transit to proceed including programming and he, together with different transit leaders from across the nation, mentioned they’d proceed cleansing routines and passenger security measures really helpful by public well being officers.

“We have discovered that this was a very good concept, that we should always’ve been doing this from the start,” Barbara Cline, executive director of Prairie Hills Transit in Spearfish, S.D., mentioned of her group’s enhanced well being and security measures. “We is probably not accomplished with this disaster, so we need to be ready for that.”

Rounds, the panel’s rating member, mentioned he hoped transit teams would put to work federal COVID-19 aid {dollars} going out throughout the nation as a part of the American Aid Plan Act. And afterward, he mentioned, Congress ought to give attention to getting funding out to the agricultural service suppliers.

“Shifting previous the pandemic, it is going to be crucial to get these rural transit programs working in a means that actually improves upon the pre-pandemic norms,” Rounds mentioned.

Comply with Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson, name 651-290-0707 or e mail dferguson@forumcomm.com

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