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Roam Transit offering free fare amid COVID-19 pandemic

“I think the key is we’re doing everything to maintain our service for people, but ensure the safety of both drivers and passengers and we’re continuing to monitor the situation."
20200319 ROAM Bus COVID 19 0051
Two passengers walk onto a ROAM transit bus on Thursday (March 19). ROAM buses are continuing to operate at a restricted capacity in response to the new coronavirus COVID-19. The transit provider has also gone fare free to increase social distancing for its drivers and passengers. EVAN BUHLER RMO PHOTO⁠

BOW VALLEY – While the valley continues to see closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, one local service is doing its best to keep those who still need to get places connected.

Roam Transit is offering free transit until May 1 to help those in the valley who are still working, or need to go to critical appointments, get around.

“We’ve implemented fare free transit until May 1 at this point, to be reevaluated in April,” said Martin Bean, Roam Transit's chief administrative officer. 

“And not with the intention of increasing ridership, but rather with the intention to still be able to provide the service, allowing people to spread out, and being able to have rear-door loading only and unloading only to increase the safety of our drivers. 

"So we’re asking people to only use the rear door and not to sit in the front couple seats on the bus, so drivers have more space when they’re on the front line.”  

The bus service is also taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of drivers and passengers, such as a more intense cleaning schedule.

“We upped our cleaning regimen with daily cleaning a couple times a day and enhanced cleaning in the evenings,” said Bean.

“We limited our capacity on the buses to 75 per cent of seated capacity, which means that there’s no more standing and people will have more room to move about the bus. Our goal with all our measures is to allow more space between passengers.”

The local transit service took to its Facebook page on Wednesday (March 18) to let its riders know of extra precautions being taken.

“We know residents need to get to appointments, to grocery stores, and to essential work locations during this public health emergency,” it said.

“We continually promote not needing a car in the Bow Valley and as such, Roam is committed to running our operations as normal to ensure residents can depend on us as a reliable transportation option in these unreliable times. That being said, we have enacted some measures.”

In addition to free transit, Roam said it’s developing a credit system for passholders, as well. A customer service representative will be available by phone only from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. 

The only exception to service at this point in time, said Bean, is route seven which normally goes up to the Banff Centre.

“It was primarily used by employees, so that will be temporarily suspended as they had a lot of layoffs yesterday,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bean said the service has also been hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Most definitely [we’re affected], our ridership is down significantly,” he said.

“We’re anticipating our ridership to be in the 20 to 30 per cent of regular ridership only providing service to people who need to get to appointments, or who work in essential jobs.

"So we’re committed at this point to maintaining our routes and providing that service. In the Bow Valley there are a lot of people who rely on Roam Transit and don’t have their own personal vehicle to be able to move around.”

Roam Transit will continue to monitor the situation, said Bean, and try to maintain service as much as is possible.

“I think the key is we’re doing everything to maintain our service for people, but ensure the safety of both drivers and passengers and we’re continuing to monitor the situation,” he said.