Amidst ongoing uncertainty related to COVID-19, Rocky View Regional Handibus Society (RVRHS) – otherwise known as Rocky View Bus – was pleased to receive substantial grant funding from Rocky View County (RVC).
At a regular meeting May 12, RVC council voted to provide Rocky View Bus with $300,500 as part of the 2020 Specialized Transportation Grant.
“Everything is so unsettled right now,” said Paul Siller, executive director of RVRHS. “We are relieved that we got funding from RVC. We actually received the same amount as we did last year.”
Every year, RVC awards the Specialized Transportation Grant to subsidize the cost of transporting seniors and people with disability to medical appointments. Rocky View Bus, which is headquartered in Airdrie, provides residents of Cochrane, Chestermere, Crossfield and Rocky View County with transportation to medical appointments.
According to Siller, RVC’s funding came at just the right time. Over the past several months, Siller said, the society has not been able to confirm a commitment from its partner municipalities. Some, he said, are reconsidering continuing providing the service – for example, Irricana has announced it will no longer participate due to funding pressures.
Cochrane, Crossfield and Chestermere, meanwhile, have provided funding for 2020.
Another source of funding has evaporated during the COVID-19 pandemic, Siller – it's busing contract with Rocky View Schools (RVS).
“Since there’s been no school since March 15, that aspect of our operation has also been parked,” he said.
This all makes RVC’s funding even more vital and appreciated, he said.
According to Siller, the past few months have been a challenge for the society, as COVID-19 has had a substantial impact on Rocky View Bus. As riders cancelled their trips, the society had to furlough some staff.
“By early April, 95 per cent of our daily trips had disappeared,” he said. “There are not a lot of places to go. However, we still have two or three buses on the road, doing things like dialysis, cataract and eye surgeries, seniors getting groceries and that sort of thing.”
In order to incorporate physical distancing between passengers, Siller said the society has had too keep a higher number of buses on the road than the number of rides would normally dictate.
As Alberta gradually reopens, Siller anticipates the handibus will become busier.
“Bookings are starting to resurface for all that stuff that was cancelled in late march,” he said. “People are rebooking for their [physiotherapy] appointments and for lab work that was deferred and other procedures.”
As the pandemic continues, Siller said several cleaning practices have been instituted to ensure passengers remain safe. Drivers are now wearing masks and frequently wiping down hard surfaces with disinfectant.
He asks all passengers to please stay home if they are exhibiting any symptoms consistent with COVID-19.