Know Before You Go: Ebus on Essential Travel During the COVID-19 Crisis
In these unprecedented times, businesses have to adjust, completely rethink the way they work, pivot on the fly, and try to embrace to a new normal. At Ebus, being a family owned company, we’re lucky to have the ability to be quite nimble, whether it be in our operations, our internal procedures, or our internal and external communications.
One thing we realized very quickly, is that because of our clear vision of our founder, R.B. Colborne, his 10 Core Values that guide us every day, and the strength in our Safely Home brand, was that making decisions in a crisis like this was relatively simple if we followed what we already lived by.
The Core Values that we emblazon in our offices, talk about in our meetings, and live by in our operations have always been Safety, Customer Service, Resourcefulness, Integrity, Positive Attitude, Teamwork, Loyalty, Accountability, Respect, and Dedication.
R.B. Colborne’s vision was all about people. And when you put people first, the decisions almost make themselves. This crystal-clear reason why we exist as a company, what we stand for, and how we operate, all led to the swift decision to shift from getting passengers Safely Home, to encouraging everyone to Stay Safely Home.
However, realizing that various transportation modes are still available, we wanted to help provide some clarity for the public who are weighing the decision on whether or not to travel during this time.
Essential Travel vs Non-Essential Travel
First of all, people need to make the decision on whether the reason they are travelling is strong enough to put themselves at risk. Because it’s not an overstatement to say that every time you leave your home, you are at increased risk.
The Canada Border Service Agency recently published a piece around essential vs non-essential travel, and so we’ll use these as a guideline to review the reasons.
What is Essential Travel?
Work: Businesses have all been encouraged to allow people to work from home, have discouraged in-person meetings as well as travel. However, a business may have operational needs that require an employee to move from point A to B. In these extenuating circumstances, speak with your employer about whether the travel is absolutely essential.
Study: Now that in-person classrooms in Alberta have stopped operating, and continuing classes have gone online, there is no reason to travel to and from campus to attend school. However, we know that some students are still in residences and may need to get home.
Shopping for Essential Goods: Essential goods are only those such as medication, and even then, these things can often be delivered. Be sure to check all options before planning to travel for this reason.
Health, Safety, and Security: If you require medical attention that you have to travel for, you will be told by your healthcare provider. If your safety and/or security is at risk, we urge you to contact the proper authorities to discuss your options.
Economic Services and Supply Chains, Critical Infrastructure Support, and other activities at the discretion of the BSO are also deemed as essential travel. If you’re employed in any of these capacities, you would know your status as it relates to essential travel. If you’re not, it’s likely that your travel is considered non-essential.
What is Non-Essential Travel?
Tourism, Recreation, and Entertainment: Visiting another city simply to sightsee, stay in a hotel, or go to any events or attractions is not essential. With non-essential businesses ordered to close, you wouldn’t have much luck.
Visiting Friends and Relatives: This one is not listed by the BSO, but we felt that this needed to be called out separately. As we’re approaching Easter, we’ve been fielding phone calls from passengers asking if we’ll be operating during the long weekend. This tells us that people are planning trips for purely leisure reasons, likely to visit friends and family or for the reasons above. We can’t stress enough that these are non-essential purposes for travel right now. Visit virtually right now, because the sooner we all Stay Safely Home, the sooner we flatten the curve.
If you decide your travel is essential, here are some options:
We’ve tried to help you with your decisions by listing some options and factors you should consider before you decide which one to use. Please remember when weighing your options, to use transportation operators that adhere to the restrictions that authorities have put in place, including but not limited to: no more than 15 people (Alberta) be gathered at one time, and that for public transportation, 2 metres of social distancing be observed.
Private Vehicles: Although we often tout the advantages to the planet of shared transportation such as motorcoaches, during this time we urge you to use your private vehicle for inter-city travel. You have complete control over who gets in your car (which should be only you and your immediate family members or members of your household), but you also have control over the cleanliness of the door handles, steering wheel, gears, buttons, consoles, cupholders, and mirrors – all surfaces that could carry a virus. Safe Travel Tips: Make sure that you bring plenty of hand sanitizer, tissues, and have a receptacle for your garbage.
Car Rentals: Many car rental agencies are still operating for essential travel purposes and have implemented measures in response to COVID-19 such as social distancing in offices, enhanced cleaning protocols, and amended cancellation policies. Safe Travel Tips: Should you need decide to rent a car, be sure to ensure the location you chose is open as some companies have consolidated their locations, travel with the essentials listed above and thoroughly clean all surfaces every time you get in the vehicle.
Ride-sharing/Car-pooling Services: Single vehicle car-pooling services have either stopped operating or are urging riders to only use them for essential travel. Ride-sharing with strangers allows for less control over limiting the spread of COVID-19. Safe Travel Tips: Ask if they are ill, have symptoms, or have been out of the country in the last 14 days, if they answer yes to any of those questions, find another rider/passenger. Only travel with one other person and sit in the furthest back seat on the opposite side from the driver to ensure the most possible social distancing. Bring wipes to wipe down all surfaces before you start your journey. And as always, travel with sanitizer, tissues, and a receptacle to get rid of used wipes and tissues.
Inter-city Buses: All bus operators should have introduced stringent cleaning protocols, should be screening passengers for illness and recent international travel, should be limiting the amount of passengers on board, and should be implementing social distancing.
Prior to fully suspending operations, we encouraged social distancing in our offices, when passengers were embarking and disembarking, and when waiting for our drivers to load and unload luggage. Since most inter-city operators operate large motorcoaches, there is opportunity for social distancing. Proper social distancing on a typical coach would mean one passenger every third row. Safe Travel Tips: Ask about extra cleaning protocols, if all passengers are screened, and what their social distancing policy is. Again, bring your handy travel sanitizer kit!
Transit: Public transit, including inter-city commuter transit, is an essential service for many people employed in essential roles. The majority of transit operations have implemented enhanced cleaning measures, introduced rear-door boarding for the safety of customers and drivers, and are limiting the number of people on board to ensure social distancing. Safe Travel Tips: Comply with all rules, sit two metres away from fellow passengers, be aware of all surfaces you touch with your hand, and if the fare is on an honour system, please do the right thing and pay.
Airlines: Similar to bus operators, all airlines should be sanitizing carefully, screening passengers, and implementing social distancing. Safe Travel Tips: Be extra careful in airports that allow international travel and be sure to practice physical distancing when going through security, in departure gates, washrooms, and when boarding. Also take care when walking down aisles and using overhead luggage bins as things tend to be tight on an aircraft and you may be very close to other passengers.
From all of us at Ebus, we encourage you to Stay Safely Home. If you do deem travel to be essential, we hope this “Know Before you Go” guide helps you make smart decisions so that you and your loved ones remain healthy and safe, reduce the risk of infection, and help flatten the curve.
Read here for more about our #StaySafelyHome campaign.