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GRTC suspending all on-board fare collection and enforcement during COVID-19 emergency

Affected service includes all Pulse, local, and express commuter bus routes and all CARE services, except CARE On-Demand.

RVAHub Staff

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GRTC is suspending all on-board fare collection and enforcement during the COVID-19 emergency effective March 19, 2020. Affected service includes all Pulse, local, and express commuter bus routes and all CARE services, except CARE On-Demand.

Bus passengers are instructed to enter and exit through the rear doors only and sit behind the accessibility-reserved seating area. Front-door access will be permitted only for passengers needing the boarding ramp or operator assistance to access the bus. ADA accessible seating space near the front of the bus is reserved for individuals in mobility devices, individuals in need of special assistance, and families with children in strollers.

GRTC Chief Executive Officer Julie Timm says, “In continuing service during this state of emergency, our first priority remains the safety, health, and financial well-being of our employees, their families, and our riders. By eliminating close interactions at bus fareboxes, we can better implement social distancing by avoiding interaction in this high contact space.” GRTC also added an additional Pulse bus to service so riders may spread out on more buses. The Pulse system still has high passenger loads despite overall decreased ridership.

GRTC provides lifeline employment and health connections for many of our riders and is the primary source of income for nearly 500 GRTC employees. Timm explains, “We take our obligation to provide that service very seriously. GRTC is closely monitoring updates on the COVID-19 virus spread in Virginia so that we may continue to take all reasonable precautions to address the risk and to maintain core service for the critical mobility and economic needs of our community. I maintain a high level of confidence in the safety of our service for our employees and our riders; however, we are asking all riders to assist in protecting our service by eliminating all non-essential trips and following all recommended health precautions and social distancing.”

GRTC frontline staff, including Operators, Supervisors, Cleaners, and Mechanics, are taking every reasonable precaution to protect themselves and each other while serving the public. GRTC has doubled the frequency of cleanings on all vehicles. GRTC and RideFinders’ offices are closed to the public. All GRTC public meetings are canceled. For the most complete and latest GRTC updates during this pandemic, please visit our website.

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A spirited solution: GRTC sources sanitizer from Reservoir Distillery

GRTC contacted Reservoir Distillery last week to place a recurring bulk order for their newly produced sanitizer. Just as sanitizer dispensers at GRTC’s headquarters emptied, reinforcements arrived today from Reservoir Distillery, normally a bourbon whiskey producer in Scott’s Addition.

RVAHub Staff

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Normally barrels and buses are buddies as a safe solution for patrons traveling after imbibing. Today there’s a new spirited solution. As hand sanitizer supplies quickly back-ordered during the COVID-19 crisis, GRTC needed to find a supplier quickly to refill dwindling inventory for essential employees. A Richmond Times-Dispatch news story about local businesses shifting production from spirits to sanitizer sparked a solution.

GRTC contacted Reservoir Distillery last week to place a recurring bulk order for their newly produced sanitizer. Just as sanitizer dispensers at GRTC’s headquarters emptied, reinforcements arrived today from Reservoir Distillery, normally a bourbon whiskey producer in Scott’s Addition.

“Creative solutions like this are exciting, said GRTC Chief Executive Officer Julie Timm. “Our essential employees need sanitizer at headquarters and in the field, and a local business benefits from our need. This is a win-win solution for both of us and I am proud of our Procurement Department’s ingenuity.”

“We are happy to be able to support GRTC during this unprecedented time,” says Dave Cuttino, co-founder of Reservoir Distillery. “Reservoir will continue to make hand sanitizer as long as resources are available and the need is there within our community.”

More than 100 gallons of liquid sanitizer were picked up Monday from Reservoir Distillery, helping GRTC staff reporting to headquarters maintain proper personal hygiene practices. Operators and other frontline staff can refill personal bottles to use in the field.

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Government

Real ID deadline extended until 2021 amid coronavirus outbreak

The deadline for Real IDs has been extended until October 2021. The move was prompted by widespread Department of Motor Vehicle customer service center closures during the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security said Thursday.

Capital News Service

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By Hannah Eason

The deadline for Real IDs has been extended until October 2021. The move was prompted by widespread Department of Motor Vehicle customer service center closures during the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security said Thursday.

The deadline for the IDs was Oct. 1. After the deadline, the licenses will be required to access federal facilities, board domestic flights and enter nuclear power plants.

The application process must be completed in person, but Virginia has closed DMV customer service centers until April 2 to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. DMV closures and restricted access nationwide will prevent people from receiving Real IDs. Gov. Ralph Northam added a 60-day extension to any license or registration expiring before May 15.

“The federal, state and local response to the spread of the Coronavirus here in the United States necessitates a delay in this deadline,” acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf said in a news release. “Our state and local partners are working tirelessly with the Administration to flatten the curve and, therefore, we want to remove any impediments to response and recovery efforts.”

A regular driver’s license can still be used for driving, voting and verifying identity. Real IDs are marked by a black or gold star symbol in the top-right corner of the license.

The Real ID application process requires multiple forms of identity, such as:

  • U.S. passport or birth certificate

  • Social security card or W-2 form displaying social security number

  • Two of the following: valid Virginia driver’s license, recent utility bills, mortgage statements or leasing agreements

  • Proof of name changes if applicable

Non-U.S. citizens must show proof of identification and legal presence, such as an unexpired passport and visa, permanent resident card or employment authorization document. Virginians who do not have a Real ID must have federally accepted identification, such as a passport, to board a domestic flight or enter a secured federal facility.

Farmville resident Ethan Bowman, who was left unemployed by the coronavirus outbreak when he was unable to start a new political marketing job, has not received a Real ID but said an extension will help him.

“I don’t have a copy of my birth certificate,” Bowman said. “So I would have to get that somehow before the deadline.”

Right now, there are other things on Bowman’s mind. He said his two roommates are out of work due to the pandemic, and the two grocery stores in the town of 8,000 were low on food Wednesday.

“We sent my cousin out for food and he just sent a bunch of pictures back to our little group chat, and it was just empty shelves, everywhere,” Bowman said of the Walmart Supercenter in Farmville.

Casey Tharpe, a respiratory therapy major at Radford University Carilion, received a Real ID in January after an eight-hour day of computer issues at the DMV in South Boston.

“You just had to check this box for Real ID, but honestly I really have no use whatsoever for Real ID,” Tharpe said. “I’ve been on a plane once in my life.”

Wolf stated that extending the deadline would also allow the Department of Homeland Security to work with Congress and implement the “needed changes to expedite the issuance of Real IDs.”

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Government

Commonwealth Transportation Board makes $11 million in additional operating assistance available to Virginia Public Transportation agencies

Locally, just over $1 million in funding will be distributed.

RVAHub Staff

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On Tuesday, the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) authorized an additional $11 million in statewide public transportation operating funding to be made available to all Virginia public transportation agencies suffering major ridership losses and additional operating expenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Commonwealth of Virginia’s related public health response. Locally, just over $1 million in funding will be distributed.

“The onset and continued spread of COVID-19 has had extraordinary and disproportionate impacts on Virginia’s public transit industry and the communities they serve,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “As more social distancing is implemented, we recognize that reduced service and significant ridership losses lead to diminished revenue and more challenges ahead.”

The $11 million is equivalent to one-month of statewide operating revenues currently allocated to the Commonwealth Mass Transit Fund. The funding, allocated to local public transit agencies by formula, will be available by early April.

Specific information regarding amounts made to each agency is available on DRPT’s COVID-19 Pandemic Response and Mitigation website.

Additionally, the emergency funding was identified from prior years savings due to DRPT’s Making Efficient + Responsible Investments in Transit (MERIT) management program, creating no negative impact to current allocations.

“Transit agencies had to take immediate steps to minimize the risk to their employees, customers, and communities, far beyond anything envisioned in their operating budgets,” said DRPT Director Jennifer Mitchell. “Today’s action enables DRPT to respond quickly and equitably to help their agency needs.”

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