TriMet has been working diligently to protect our staff and our riders since our local public health partners first alerted us to COVID-19. I want to share with you some of the steps we’ve taken.
TriMet has implemented precautionary measures:
- Cleaning and disinfecting vehicles
We regularly clean our buses and trains, including our paratransit service vehicles; however, we now maintenance teams cleaning all touchpoint surfaces nightly on all our transit vehicles, wiping them down with a disinfectant. This includes the poles, doors and other surfaces people touch or hold onto as the vehicles move. It also includes the cabs and operator areas.
- Field staff resources
We’re working on getting more hand sanitizer for all of our operators and other field staff who interact with the public, along with disinfectant wipes for operators to wipe down their work areas inside vehicles. As such products are in large demand, we have had orders canceled by manufacturers but we are still pursuing this. We have prioritized hand sanitizer on routes where operators do not have readily access to a restroom. We are pursuing other opportunities with our local public health partners to limit the risk for field staff including ventilation and use of the buses that have a safety panel between the operator and customers.
- Social distancing
TriMet is closely following the Oregon Health Authority’s guidelines and messaging on social distancing, by recommending that people stay three feet away from others whenever possible. In practice, this presents a challenge, as public transit is a vital means for large groups of people to get to work or reach social services efficiently. With that that in mind, we are recommending that if people are feeling sick or belong to a demographic that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention categorizes as “high risk” (older adults or people with chronic medical conditions) to stay home or use other transportation.
For our staff, we are evaluating work spaces to allow for the three-foot social distancing recommendation and stagger work schedules, if necessary. We are also limiting in-person meetings, instead using phones, email and video conference technologies. Until further notice, we are curtailing non-essential meetings of twenty or more individuals, including after-work functions.
- Out-of-State travel
TriMet has suspended all discretionary work-related travel for employees outside the area, especially any international travel. We are also encouraging employees to consider suspended personal travels outside the area.
- Sick Leave
We have reminded employees of sick leave procedures in accordance with TriMet’s Human Resources policies and procedures and the Working and Wage Agreement. In addition, we’ve implemented supplemental provisions including for quarantined or self-quarantined employees.
Communication in a time of crisis is key and TriMet has been doing extensive communications, especially of CDC and local health authority precautions, with our employees, riders and community partners:
- Employee communications
Our General Manager is sending out at least bi-weekly updates to employees around the changing situation with COVID-19 and latest direction from health authorities. We also are providing employees factual information and news they can use for their safety and the safety of their loved ones in weekly posts on our intranet. We have posted an FAQ that continues to evolve on our intranet as well. Preventative messaging is displayed on digital screens and restrooms throughout our employee facilities.
- Rider communications
We have established a web page at trimet.org/health dedicated to COVID-19, with vital information for riders on steps they should take to keep themselves safe and stop the spread of COVID-19. We are sharing all updates from our local health authorities and state and local leaders with riders via direct email, social media, agency blogs, digital displays at rail stations and transit centers on the home page of trimet.org and through our customer service phone service. While sharing the extra steps we are taking to clean vehicles nightly, on the continued request of local health authorities we are pushing our reminders that no surface will stay clean and personal precautions such as handwashing are imperative. We are also responding to numerous individual correspondence from riders each day, with specific questions about precautions, what steps TriMet is taking and advice for staying safe while relying on transit.
- Media communications
We are providing updates to media to amplify the message to riders multiple times a week as well.
- Regional communications coordination
TriMet staff are involved in daily coordination calls with local health departments, jurisdictional partners and community partners, not only receiving updates on the regional situation, but on how to effectively communicate to the public and align messaging to reduce confusion for the public.
In closing, TriMet will continue to provide service to the region, making adjustments as necessary. Staff has begun developing a multitude of service levels and staffing plans should we need to make changes. Like so many of our partner agencies across the region and nation, TriMet has—and will continue—to take steps in responding to this rapidly evolving global pandemic.