The Yuma County Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority (YCIPTA) is the recipient of $8.2 million in CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act funds, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

“We know many of our nation’s public transportation systems are facing extraordinary challenges and these funds will go a long way to assisting our transit industry partners in battling COVID-19,” FTA’s acting administrator Jane Williams said in a news release. “These federal funds will support operating assistance to transit agencies of all sizes providing essential travel and supporting transit workers across the country who are unable to work because of the public health emergency.”

Announced by the administration on Monday, the funds awarded to YCIPTA will “help immensely” in keeping the Yuma County Area Transit (YCAT) and YCAT OnCall services rolling as they address additional expenses incurred during the current public health crisis.

“It’s definitely going to go a long way in keeping us moving during this time,” said YCIPTA Transit Director Shelly Kreger. “We’ve been fare-free since March, so that’s quite a hit to us, plus there’s extra costs like extra sanitation, nightly fogging of vehicles, shortage of staff, keeping staff paid if they’re out sick, et cetera.”

In addition to waiving rider fare in attempts to limit contact between drivers and passengers, YCAT’s fixed route schedule is operating on a modified Saturday schedule with every other seat available to promote social distancing between passengers.

Normal operating costs — which include staff wages, maintenance, fuel and tires — total $137.36 per revenue hours, according to Kreger. When operating “full service,” YCAT’s fixed route runs 38,000 revenue hours a year while YCAT OnCall runs about 4,500. As rider fare plays an important role in covering these costs, this $8.2 million grant is a critical resource in the absence of that income.

“This CARES Act funding is 100% (provided by) FTA and it’s going to help us immensely, because we’re not getting what we normally get in revenue,” Kreger said.

According to Kreger, YCAT and YCAT OnCall passengers are still required to wear face coverings in order to board, and are encouraged to only utilize the services for essential transportation.

“We want them to use the service, but just for essential services to try to keep COVID at bay,” Kreger said. “We try to do everything in our power to keep our customers and our employees safe.”

For more information on YCAT and YCAT OnCall routes and services, visit https://www.ycipta.org/routes-and-services.html.

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