TARC: In Response to ATU Local 1447’s Concerns Regarding COVID-19June 25, 2021
In response to an ATU letter received yesterday, we believe it is important to address the questions raised and provide a description of the measures we have taken as an organization to ensure the health and wellbeing of our employees and our passengers during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
As an agency TARC is in full compliance with—and in many instances has gone well beyond—all guidelines laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Indeed, we have more than fulfilled all 15 steps outlined by the CDC’s “What Bus Transit Operators Need to Know About COVID-19: What steps should my employer take?”
As the city continues to work on the safest way to reopen, and as our ridership demand increases so will our service. All at TARC are looking forward to a sense of normalcy, and a return to weekday service operations once again.
Passenger limits remain set at 25, with a callout to dispatch for a “shadow bus” at 15 to ensure the best balance between needed service and the health and safety of our drivers and passengers. There is no recommended passenger limit set by health experts. With current methods of prevention and sanitation measures in place, to reduce the passenger count below the current limit would require additional buses on the street which are not available to us at this time, and place an unreasonable strain on our Maintenance Department.
The HEROES (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions) Act covers Hazard pay for essential workers, including mass-transit workers. This bill has passed through the House, was received by the Senate on May 20th, and received its second reading on June 1st. TARC leadership has been following this bill closely, and we look forward to its progress in the Senate. The passage of this bill would provide important and deserved support for public transit workers.
On June 1st TARC began recalling all operators laid off in March. As these team members are welcomed back, additional training classes have been provided to ensure they are aware of health and safety measures and preventive steps put in place during their absence. It is important that all recalled operators continue to ensure a safe work environment for all team members and passengers.
TARC has taken significant steps, and team members have worked around the clock with great resourcefulness to guarantee every step is taken to ensure the health and safety of our entire workforce. TARC remains in close contact with two Coach Operators, one of whom has already returned to work, who have tested positive for COVID-19. As an organization we are doing everything we can to prevent any additional cases; we all hope for a speedy recovery to our second Coach Operator who remains off work at this time.
Regarding the CARES Act, TARC has not “declined” this source of funding. These funds are available through reimbursement only, meaning dollars must be spent before a request to receive these funds can be submitted. These expenditures must meet what is considered allowable and must also be approved before they are granted. TARC operations are funded mainly through an occupational tax (68% of funding), and fare and fare collections (14% of funding). These two sources account for 82% of our entire revenue and have taken a significant hit during the pandemic. As leaders it is our job to place our agency in a long-term and sustainable position, as we undergo the difficult work to return to previous levels of ridership (currently down 60%), and our reliability on occupational tax revenue returns.
As the largest public transportation provider in the state, TARC has honorably served our region throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. By continuing to connect Greater Louisville’s essential workers to jobs and the five-county community we serve to the essential resources they need, we have provided support and stability to both our region’s workforce and the economy. TARC leadership and our Board of Directors have been closely involved during this entire process, and have shown sincere engagement and concern for the wellbeing of our entire TARC team, our passengers, and the critical role we play in the community.
We look forward to a full return to our important role of connecting our entire community to places of employment, transporting students to class, and doing our part to help our region recover from this historic crisis. The safety of our team members and our passengers remains TARC’s top priority.