Derek Bailey is on board.
“When all of this is said and done, and when COVID-19 is finally over, I want to be able to look back and say I did what I could do when I was asked,” said Bailey.
“This doesn’t affect just one of us,” he said. “It affects all of us. And it’s up to all of us to help out where and when and if we feel we can.”
EXPO Centre route
Bailey is one of eight Edmonton Transit Service operators who have volunteered to get behind the wheel of a new route that connects Edmonton’s inner city agencies with the Edmonton EXPO Centre. The Centre is home to a daytime drop-in space and an isolation shelter for some Edmontonians experiencing homelessness.
Forty-foot buses, each outfitted with a floor-to-ceiling, double plastic, vapour barrier separating the operator from the passenger space, run daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“Anytime that people are standing out there wondering, is there going to be another bus, that’s up to me then to come out to reassure them that I will be back to pick you up and standing behind that as well,” said Bailey.
“Making every effort to try and find that consistency of how fast can we get these people to where they need to get to, safely, of course, but also getting back as quickly as we can, so we can then carry on with more passengers.”
To preserve the benefit of physical distancing, each bus carries up to 15 passengers. Passengers get on board through the back door.
“Everyone on board is a human being”
Like all other passengers, each person on board deserves to ride with security and dignity and arrive safely, said Bailey.
“Everyone on board is an Edmontonian and everyone on board is a human being” said Bailey. “We all put our socks on the sa-…..Actually, you know, we don’t. Yesterday at the centre I saw a woman who just had those paper slippers on her feet.”
A hero, a helper
Bailey, who has been an ETS Operator for more than three years, and is a former emergency medical responder, has helped before. In February 2019, he made headlines when he came across a man suffering from extreme hypothermia in a bus shelter in north Edmonton.
At the time, ETS issued a statement: “Derek’s actions are a great example of our ETS operators going above and beyond to help people in Edmonton. Derek took it upon himself to act quickly, and saved this man’s life.”
Bailey said the downtown-EXPO Centre bus route shows the heart of ETS.
“It shows that ETS recognizes the need to support the community,” he said. “One of our key values at the City of Edmonton is to be helpful.”