On Oct. 6, the Palo Verde Valley Transit Agency (PVVTA) Board of Directors convened for its regular monthly meeting to ratify a Rural Transit Assistance Program (RTAP) Scholarship, receive and file an overview progress report on the ongoing Comprehensive Operational Analysis (COA) and draft Request for Proposal (RFP), hear an update to the ongoing CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) project with Palo Verde Unified School District (PVUSD), celebrate morning dispatcher Glenda Kehler’s over-18 years of employment with the agency and more.
• As part of the morning’s consent calendar, PVVTA’s Bus #422 (2013 Glavan [CNG] non-op) was approved to be declared surplus, with the possibility of it being issued for sale or donated to partner agencies.
“After an inventory of (PVVTA) assets, staff identified (Bus 422) past (its) useful operating life for service due to a major mechanical engine failure,” noted PVVTA’s summary report. “All equipment listed has exceeded the required safe operating useful life cycle and is no longer used in daily operations. Efforts will be made to recover as much of the value left of this equipment if sold.”
• Additionally, Resolution PVVTA 2021-05 – to enroll into State Disability Insurance (SDI) for the transit authority’s employee(s) coverage – was also approved as part of the morning’s consent calendar.
The fiscal impact report noted a potential gain towards the operating budget improving the farebox recovery ratio.
“PVVTA is obligated with the employment to carry disability coverage by California Unemployment Insurance Code. To enroll into CA State Disability Insurance was the most cost-effective way for coverage. A resolution to set things in motion is required and put into attachment,” stated the presented summary report.
• A Rural Transit Assistance Program (RTAP) Scholarship for training and travel expenses to the 2021 California Association for Coordinated Transportation (CalACT) Autumn Conference was ratified by the PVVTA Board of Directors.
“The (CalACT) is holding their 2021 Autumn Conference( i)n Monterey(, Calif., on Oct. 26-29.) During this conference(,) sessions regarding COVID and recovery from will occur as well as several workshops with Federal, State and Regional authorities who will discuss funding, safety and advocacy issues. This conference and CalACT as a whole is focused on providing support and assistance to rural transit operators in the State. PVVTA has been a member of CalACT for over a decade. Achievements spawned by conferences like this were improvement throughout the years for PVVTA in; vehicle procurement, system safety, grant opportunities, compliance and policy inclusion,” stated PVVTA’s summary report. “During the process to prepare for this conference(,) staff worked with CalACT to apply and successfully awarded a grant scholarship to help pay for expenses to attend the conference. This scholarship is provided by the (RTAP) who main focus is to provide rural agencies and staff the opportunity to gain training and information to improve rural transit.”
The conditional approval given by CalACT was for $2,200 for travel and training expenses, a noted fiscal savings in that amount for the transit authority.
• The PVVTA Board heard a receive and file overview progress report on the ongoing Comprehensive Operational Analysis (COA) and draft Request for Proposal (RFP) by MAG (Mobility Advancement Group) representative Martin Gombert.
“There’s a lot of different facets that are going on with this. Obviously, we’re trying to project for – from 5-to-10 years into the future with this new contract coming up, so. We are taking our time going through each step of it, but overall there’s a lot of spinning plates right now – CalTrans (California Department of Transportation) is one of them. They’re obviously, at the end of the day, the ones that have to sign off on what we’re trying to do,” noted PVVTA General Manager George Colangeli. “So that’s one; the other one is (t)hat we want to paint a picture and a story that’s going to tell (and inform) the board and the public and everybody else – anytime there’s a study that comes out – the true picture of what’s going on right now. We are in the middle of COVID; we do have our operational issues – but overall, we want to get that into the record the best way possible. So we’re working through those little things; we don’t want to react to just say, ‘Hey, you know, 50% of our service is cut. And woe is me.’ We want to have an outlook for the next five to ten years.”
• Colangeli iterated PVVTA’s return to regular fare on the local routes, which began Oct. 1, as well as the free promotional routes to the area California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) prisons (Red Route).
“We’ve had a real good turnout on that; we’ve got a full bus every trip now – people are taking advantage of that; that’ll go for three months. And, basically, it allows some of the prison employees that – you know they see the bus (but) they might ride a van pool or drive in. It gives them an opportunity to actually ride the bus, see how the system works, and then maybe it’s an option for them after January (2022.) But that’s been met with a real good response from those at the prison,” noted Colangeli. “And then our Silver Route – on Saturday’s, we’re still making it free. It allows people to go back and forth for shopping in town. They get to do their thing on Saturday for four hours; we’ve got a few more people, but Saturdays (are) always hard because people are doing so much. And now that the weather’s changed, everybody’s out enjoying the cooler weather. So, we’re still monitoring that; that’ll go for three months as well.”
• Despite a key member of Palo Verde Unified School District’s (PVUSD) recent resignation, Colangeli noted the CNG project is continuing to move forward.
“So, we have – are working with the administration still. But it looks like maybe next week they’re going to have a person come by from the contractor to get some more measurements to get prepped for the installation. So we’re looking at installation within the next 30 to 90 days, depending on everything. And we have everybody aboard; we have PVID (Palo Verde Irrigation District) that’s going to, we’re going to use their equipment – they’re crane and whatnot. And then all of the other – the electrical, and all that kind of stuff already in place. All those people are aware. It’s just finally (m)oving forward and installing it. So, we have permits from the city – everything’s all ready to go; it’s just – we had a key person (depart,) and that’s the only one from the school district that was leading the project, so.”
• The PVVTA is continuing to plan for this year’s hometown staple Holiday Lightrunner event – which provides a tour of the Palo Verde Valley area’s holiday lights for folks.
“It is an outdoor event. We’re still planning that, so. In November, hopefully, I’ll bring back something that will kind of forecast what we’re going to do for Lightrunner (2021.) It’s a very, very popular Christmas event in town; so, with that said, we’re going to have to step up. We’re conscious of COVID; we’re conscious of other things. But, like we did last year – where (folks) just followed the bus. This year, we may allow them to ride the bus,” noted Colangeli. “We’re looking at all that – working with the county and the state and the federal health people to see what that’s going to look like. But, even to have the event outdoors here – where we have local vendors that can come, service clubs and things like that, and sell their goods for Christmas is a positive thing for the community. So, we’re looking at that.”
• PVVTA’s morning dispatcher Glenda Kehler was publicly lauded for over 18 years of employment with Transportation Concepts Inc.
“(Glenda’s) been with (PVVTA’s) contractor for 18 years this last Monday, so. (That’s) 18 years with the agency,” noted Colangeli in celebrating Kehler’s employment.
• PVVTA leadership is currently working with the City of Blythe in an effort to hopefully partner toward a potential multi-million dollar Clean California grant.
“It’s to (possibly) do some improvements to aesthetics and greenery and things along the right-of-way – especially in the south side of town. So we’re working with the city (to) hopefully get some traction on that,” stated Colangeli. “I’ve contacted RCTC (Riverside County Transportation Commission), and they’ve contacted a grant writer – so we might have somebody that they can pay to come in and help us do it. It’s still preliminary; we’re still trying to work out all the details.”
• PVVTA’s September 2021 Operations Report noted masks continue to be worn on public transit; buses continue to be sanitized; and no accidents to report.
“On (Sept. 24), a passenger suffered a seizure while riding the bus. The driver did a great job in getting medical services for the passenger. There was also a witness on board(;) she did well in assisting the driver and affected passenger,” stated PVVTA Operations Manager Marialuisa Lainez’s incidents report.
The passenger, from Ripley, was followed-up with by officials after being dropped off at their home as a precautionary measure.
“Even though they declined service, we wanted to make sure that passenger was good,” noted Colangeli. “When we’re dealing with the general public, it’s hard to pry into their business and whatnot; but we knew who exactly it was and we contacted the proper people for that. And they followed up with them for the next couple of days.”
• On bus sanitation process, Colangeli added:
“That’s going to be a mainstay, at this point; (the) sanitation program on the buses will probably continue even after COVID just because the way that it works – how we sanitize – is real good. And then everybody feels much safer when they’re on the bus.”