Not your average GRT bus

Written by: Teresa Chiavaroli, Region of Waterloo Transit Services

The pandemic has brought many firsts for Grand River Transit (GRT) and transforming a bus into a mobile testing and vaccination clinic was no exception. 

“We’d never done anything like it,” said Oswald Resendes, assistant manager of Production and Transit Fleet. “We weren’t sure what the layout would be at first and I can’t tell you how many conversations were had about chairs.”

Truck and coach technicians Denis Beletic, Richard McKnight and Jeff Wensink took on the task enthusiastically. Following a request from Communitech in the spring, the team transformed a couple if GRT buses into COVID-19 screening centres as part of the Mobile StaySafe™ Rapid Antigen Screening Program.

Collaborating with Communitech and Regional teams including Public Health, Economic Development, Creative Multimedia Services and within GRT, fleet staff essentially figured out how to fit office furnishings into a 10 by 40 foot bus. All the seats were removed and divisions and barriers were put in place to ensure physical distancing between each workstation.

By summer, the team was asked to take those same buses and transform them again, this time into mobile vaccination clinics. This required the addition of a refrigerator and rotating chairs secured safely to the floor in each of the four patient areas.

Richard is a talented fabricator who colleagues say loves to take on new challenges and come up with solutions. “When I first approached him with this project, he just lit up,” said Resendes.

Jeff is known for his meticulous attention to detail. He worked on how best to fit and install all the computers that would be needed for the four workstations. Denis conducted safety checks on the bus and put in extra time to ensure the job was done right.

Each transformation took about a week and each technician brought various skills. “Really, it took the entire fleet team working on various other projects that still needed to get done, to allow these guys to focus on this,” said Bill Barr, manager of Transit Maintenance.

The mobile vaccination buses are currently on the road hitting priority neighbourhoods to ensure the vaccine is accessible. As of mid-October, the buses have helped administer more than 2,500 doses in our community. The team is pleased to have helped make a difference, “They were happy to help contribute to this project, no hesitation,” said Resendes.