RTA keeps Dayton moving during pandemic: ‘We have a job to do’

RTA fixed-route driver, Alexis Appleberry, welcomes riders onto the bus with a smile and a face mask on.

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RTA fixed-route driver, Alexis Appleberry, welcomes riders onto the bus with a smile and a face mask on.

“Masks can’t keep our drivers from smiling.”

Management at the Greater Dayton RTA say their employees have gone the extra mile during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep the city safe and moving.

Deputy CEO, Bob Ruzinsky, said on some days since the beginning of the pandemic, attendance for all 650 employees has been at 98% — unheard of for the RTA. Employees have even been volunteering their time to pitch in where they can.

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Kelvin Gross works as a janitor for the RTA and has been picking up extra shifts.

“It’s a lot higher pace, a lot more area to cover,” Gross said. “It’s important. We all want to work because the community needs us. … The importance is the main ingredient and motivator. Everybody’s important and they’re doing something to combat something we can’t see so you have to be very diligent about it.”

Tanika Thompson, a bus driver for RTA for 19 years, said it’s been nerve-wracking at times working during a pandemic. But the importance of her job and her belief in a higher power has let her put any fear aside, she said.

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“I know that we have a job so I feel a little anxious or nervous but I get my boot straps up and get to moving,” Thompson said. “We have a job to do. There are people going to dialysis, going to grocery stores, going to get tested — we move the city so I got to do my part.”

Sometimes a car horn in traffic will blast to applaud her work, sometimes it will be a child boarding her bus that says thank you that reminds Thompson she is doing the right thing.

As much as riders have been showing extra appreciation, Thompson wanted to remind people to please cover your mouths either with a face mask, scarf or even T-shirt when riding.

“You may be comfortable with not covering yourself but always think of the next person,” Thompson said. “We have to look out for everybody because you never know what you have.”

To reduce any risks as much as possible, RTA employee Davonna Jenkins has temporarily switched from driving to voluntarily cleaning buses after her mother tested positive for COVID-19.

Even when the virus hit close to home, Jenkins never considered not coming to work.

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“It’s really a different than what we’re used to,” Jenkins said. “You don’t really hear people dying of the common cold but this is more scary even for me. Even if I don’t think nobody is touching something, I’m still going to wipe it down. I will spray a door knob 50 times and let the stuff drip just to know it’s covered.”

Jenkins, Thompson and Gross have certainly been shining examples, however, Cathy Garner, administrative assistant, said they are representative of the entire RTA family.

In her own way of going the extra mile, Garner has made more than 500 masks to give to RTA employees and their families. She now teaches classes of colleagues how to make their own masks.

“It’s always been a team of us,” Garner said. “Whenever I look at us when we’re on the map, It’s not one person it’s ‘us’ doing this.”

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