The worldwide pandemic has touched every corner of nearly every community in the United States, and in every community, people have looked to respond. In recent weeks, Snoqualmie Valley Transportation has answered the call and is doing what it can.
First, on March 24, Snoqualmie Valley Transportation (SVT) announced it was keeping up with virus mitigation by “thoroughly cleaning” the buses twice each day. But in recognizing that SVT was essential to the Valley, it continued service as normal, except to businesses that were closed by order of the governor.
With businesses shut down to slow the spread of the virus, many people were and are without work, and their livelihoods have suffered. Families throughout the world are having to get by on less than they ever have, and families in the Valley are no different.
Then, less than a week later, SVT made the call to go “fare free,” meaning riders could use the service without paying.
“We don’t want anybody to be unable to take the bus because of the fare,” said SVT director Amy Biggs in a March 30 press release. “There are so many people out of work right now. We don’t want taking a bus to be an obstacle for anybody, so we’re following King County Metro’s example and going fare-free.”
But need continued and continues throughout the Valley. SVT — a project of the Mount Si Senior Center — looked for more ways it could help, and it decided to use its resources in the best way possible. SVT now is transporting hot meals to residents who are staying home due to increased COVID-19 risk.
The Mount Si Senior Center lunch program serves anywhere between 35 and 70 meals each day. That meal service continues but with social distancing. However, some people are encouraged to stay home, even with social distancing practices in place. That’s where SVT comes in to assist.
SVT has 16 drivers. Those drivers cover about 500 square miles from Duvall to Fall City and Monroe to Snoqualmie and the communities and cities between. Biggs explained that ridership is now down about 65% due to the pandemic.
“It’s because we take so many people to work. We take so many kids to school. We take so many seniors to the senior center, or people going to their doctor. All of those rides have pretty much dried up,” Biggs said.
That decline in ridership allowed SVT to deliver meals, and the delivery services extend beyond just hot lunches. SVT also is delivering prescriptions to patients who are unable to leave their homes or unable to travel to pharmacies.
And further, SVT is using its resources to get food from local food banks to residents in need.
It’s all an encouraging story about neighbors helping neighbors and a community organization stepping up to help where it can, but the encouraging story illustrations a very real and devastating situation that is playing out worldwide. People need food banks now more than ever because they’ve lost their income due to business closures.
“All the food banks are up and running, which is totally brilliant, and they’re getting donations which is great. But the food banks are being taxed like never before. If you think of just in our area, the outlet mall is closed down — that’s hundreds of jobs. The casino is closed down,” Biggs said. The casino announced that it would continue to pay its employees during the closure, and Biggs commended the casino but noted her worry that that doesn’t do enough for gratuity-focused jobs. “The food service workers and everything else. And the retail workers. We have a lot of retail jobs (in the Valley)…
“It’s all pretty difficult. If you’re living on $9-$10 an hour in an area where the average house now goes for $800,000, you need some help.”
Biggs said SVT is considering dropping some routes to have drivers that focus on deliveries, but that is not yet decided. In the meantime, SVT is doing what it can to fill the need where it can.
For more information about SVT, go online to http://svtbus.org/.