Read on about how the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) is ensuing its personnel, buses, and light rail vehicles are kept clean and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At VTA Board Level
At the March 5 VTA Board Of Directors’ meeting. Angelique Gaeta, Chief of System Safety and Security at VTA, noted:
…we have been authorizing the use of overtime to support enhanced cleaning in all of the service areas including the buses, our light rails, on platforms, our ticket vending machines – which will be done on a daily basis.
So far, this is despite the fact that VTA is understaffed when it comes to cleaning and sanitizing their fleet. This was revealed at that same March 5 Board Of Directors’ meeting from questions by San Jose City Council member Magdalena Carrasco:
Her question and VTA staff’s answer starts at 2:07:47 of the video. Here is how VTA is handling that staffing shortage, from Lucas A. Perez in VTA Customer Service:
We are offering overtime to existing employees so we can address the cleaning of our fleet and take precautionary measures to ensure everyone’s safety. We are working with our HR department to fill vacant Service Worker positions following union rules and are doing so as soon as possible. If you know of anyone who would like to join our team please have them look at our careers page at https://www.vta.org/about/careers. If our current openings do not include jobs you are interested in at this time, you may complete a Job Interest Card <https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/vtasantaclara/jobInterestCards/categories> request to request e-mail notifications for specific job categories once the position(s) you are interested open for recruitment.
(Recall that, in April 2019, VTA had four (4) bus drivers from North Yard in Mountain View infected with scabies. This resulted in the agency having to remove and disinfect 12 buses from service.)
Efforts from VTA to stop COVID-19’s spread were reported March 11 in San Jose Spotlight. That story featured this observation from our own Monica Mallon on how VTA is replacing fabric seats with seats that allow for easier cleaning.
The fabric seats on the bus were replaced with a material that can be easily cleaned 🙌 pic.twitter.com/uURXdgpYud
— Monica Mallon (@monicamallon) March 11, 2020
One other rider also observed the work VTA is doing to clean its buses and light rail trains.
Really doing a great job to sanitize the coaches, #vta Glad you're protecting me. This is coach 4404 @vtaservice -the ceiling and upper hand rails have been black like this for half a year, the entire bus. Thought I'd get Legionnaires Disease from it, now there's a bigger concern pic.twitter.com/8eskHe44ky
— Dave (@SV2Captain) March 12, 2020
This staff memo from VTA documents what the agency is doing at its yards for buses and light rail to ensure its vehicles, yards, and yard workers are cleaned and disinfected:20-0317_TO_VTA Employees_Sanitary Workplace and Vehicle Cleaning Instructions during COVID-19
We inquired how VTA is protecting its drivers and other employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. We received this response from Lucas A. Perez from Customer Service:
VTA operators and Access Paratransit drivers have access to masks, gloves and hand sanitizer which as you know is difficult to keep in stock due to world-wide supply shortages. While customers shelter in place, we are experiencing much lower ridership which allows us to spread out the trips and means less people to a vehicle. While paratransit drivers do have to secure passengers in mobility devices for safety purposes we are taking every precaution to maintain their health and safety.
One concern on how VTA is handling the homeless during this crisis is expressed by by a fellow rider.
I hope that vta understands that the moment a homeless person contracts the virus which is highly likely, they will go undiagnosed which potentially exposes their entire staff. Not looking forward to a company wide quarantine.
— Tyrus (@Tieruss712) March 12, 2020
A separate inquiry has been sent to VTA. This page will be updated with the answers in that inquiry.
How VTA’s Union Employees Help Set These Safety Policies
Here’s what John Courtney, President of Amalgamated Transportation Union (ATU) Local 265 had to say on March 16 in how VTA is protecting riders and its employees during the COVID-19 pandemic:
In the video, he mentioned that the protections for drivers were what ATU Local 265 proposed to VTA General Manager and CEO Nuria L. Fernandez in early March. He also warned members – drivers, mechanics, and front-line personnel – to stay home instead of coming in to work sick.
Call VTA at (408)321-5575 or visit their careers page to apply.
What’s Going On?
Deep cleaning and disinfecting of all VTA buses, light rail, and paratransit vehicles. This is all being done to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Who’s Responsible at VTA?
David Hill, Chief Operating Officer, VTA. (408)321-5680
This is something we will continue to follow, even after the “shelter in place” orders end.
Founder, Silicon Valley Transit Users