The Tribe’s Transportation program continues to evolve to meet changing needs.
“It’s an ever-changing machine,” said Brandi Bell, the Tribe’s Transportation Coordinator. “We don’t do as much of some things right now, but other areas are exploding.”
For example, the program has always focused on transporting Elders to the Dena’ina Wellness Center for appointments, to Tyotkas Elder Center for lunch and activities, and into town for “essential life activities” such as trips to the grocery store, the bank or to pay bills.
With Tyotkas closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Transportation was tasked with developing routes for home-delivery of meals to Elders. But even with Tyotkas closed, Transportation picked up about 20 new riders from Elders who learned about the service through the meal delivery program.
Bell said the Transportation has also seen an increase in non-Elder transport for essential life activities, as well as for medical appointments at facilities other than the Dena’ina Wellness Center. The program also is providing more rides for students at Alaska Christian College, many of whom come from Alaska Native villages.
Drivers also are providing more rides to the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank.
To keep up with the growth, nine new vehicles have been added to the Tribe’s fleet of more than 40 over the past few months.
The new vehicles include three shuttle buses, two trucks to support the Tribe’s fishery operations, and two hot-and-cold food delivery trucks for Elders meal home delivery.
Bell said the Tribe had been progressing toward the shuttle buses and food delivery trucks, but the need to adapt services during the pandemic and available federal COVID-19 relief funding accelerated the process.
The Tribe’s fleet of vehicles now includes:
- Minivans, used by individual programs;
- 15-passenger Ford Transit vans, used primarily by the Yaghanen Youth Program and Behavioral Health Youth Services;
- SUVs, used by individual programs or assigned to visiting locum practitioners or contractors;
- Trucks, for Maintenance, Housing, Facilities and the fishery; and
- Shuttle buses.
Bell said the shuttle buses are nice because they’re much easier for Elders to get in and out of than the Transit vans.
Transportation has been working closely with many of the Tribe’s programs and services, Bell said. With the Transportation program making sure people can get where they need to be, program staff are able to focus on providing service, rather than worrying about providing rides.
Bell said Transportation coordinates with other programs and with riders to accommodate everyone’s schedule.
Drivers have even helped out as couriers over the past few months, taking paperwork to and from people receiving services.
“We help out any way we can,” Bell said.
Drivers are following health and safety guidelines, including wearing gloves and masks. Passengers are asked to wear a mask if they’re able.
Drivers also are spending extra time cleaning. Vehicles are sanitized after every ride – even if it’s the same rider getting back in for a return trip. Transportation also has a new steam cleaning machine, so vehicles will receive a regular detailing.
The Transportation program covers a large swath of territory, from Halbouty Road in Nikiski to Scout Lake Road in Sterling, and Pollard Loop in Kasilof.
For Transportation service, call Brandi Bell at 907-335-7212.