ECAT provides a vital service to our community by providing a transportation option for residents to go to work, the grocery store and the pharmacy. By suspending fares, it is another way to support our population during this challenging economic time and the timing of this decision was strategic and specific to our local area. For comparison, the Metropolitan Transit Authority in New York City or Star Metro in Tallahassee, are cashless, meaning they are still collecting fares. We have been communicating with the Florida Public Transportation Association and the Florida Department of Transportation in addition to the local union.
In continuing service during this state of emergency, our priority remains the safety and health of our employees and passengers. By eliminating close interactions at bus fareboxes, we can better implement social distancing. Please note all the steps we have taken to protect our employees and the public in the below timeline:
March 3, 2020
- ECAT provided a report to Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Region IV that included internal and external educational and instructional messages for employees and our patrons. ECAT’s Fleet Maintenance team was making sure our vehicles and facilities were sanitary and sanitizer was available at the ECAT Passenger Facility and Administrative Office. ECAT distributed CDC hand-washing posters and other coronavirus preventative information to employees. Public Information about Coronavirus Prevention was also posted on ECAT buses, at the transfer facility, and on ECAT’s website.
- ATU 1395 sent ECAT Management an email of “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Union Demands”
- Escambia County declared a local State of Emergency, EOC was activated to a Level 2.
- ECAT began reducing service with a modified schedule, by running service every two hours. Social distancing is encouraged with a limit of 10 passengers per vehicle. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks, hand sanitizer and gloves were made available to employees. Frequency of cleaning and disinfecting was increased at the ECAT Facility and on the buses.
- Most Escambia County buildings were closed to the public. ECAT continued the modified bus service, but the ECAT Administrative office was closed to the public. Ticket purchases can be made in the passenger terminal and online at www.goECAT.com.
- Florida Governor DeSantis issued an Executive Order limiting all activity in Florida to essential services over the next 30 days to slow the spread of COVID-19.
- The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) signed by the President became effective on April 1, which included the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion. This information was distributed and reviewed with employees.
- ECAT presented recommendation to the BOCC to initiate rear door boarding of passengers on April 6 to further encourage social distancing. The BOCC voted to also temporarily suspend fares which provides additional separation between the operator and the passengers—and between passengers. This provided adequate time to notify the public and employees about this change.