In the wake of growing coronavirus cases, some states are rolling back their reopening plans or at least pausing them for the time being. In cities like New York, which are in their phased reopening, there are also growing concerns about the potential resurgence of the virus.
One of the big areas of concern for a lot of people is public transportation, particularly in big cities like New York, where they don’t have many transportation options.
Mass transit can already be worrisome for some people because of safety risks, even without a pandemic. For example, non-collision injuries on MTA buses increased by 11% from 2018 to 2019.
So with coronavirus still very much an issue, what should you know about mass transit?
NYC Sees a Return to Mass Transit
It seems that while there may be fears surrounding its use, people are returning to mass transit, at least in New York City. On the first day of the city’s Phase I reopening, 213,000 more riders returned to subways and buses, which previously had a 92% decline in ridership.
As a result, the President of the New York City Transit said she was hopeful that riders were coming back to mass transit and in particular, the subway, confidently.
She went on to say that subway ridership alone was up 20%, and it was up anywhere from 18% to 22% during peak hours. Bus ridership was also recently up 13%.
There are still overnight closures on mass transit in New York City, and that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, so sanitizing and cleaning can continuously be done. Feinberg did say the plan is to at some point return to 24-hour service, with ongoing and constant cleaning.
How Can People Be More Comfortable?
Transit officials are exploring different ways to keep transportation safer and also to encourage people that it’s okay to ride again.
While ridership is returning, getting to a point where it was before the coronavirus outbreak may be challenging. In May, almost half of New Yorkers said they’d continue to avoid public transportation even during the reopening.
Mayor Bill DeBlasio even spoke out, expressing some concerns about mass transit. He said some wouldn’t be comfortable with it right now, which might lead to more people using cars.
It’s been a challenge not just for New York but cities around the world. People typically need to be comfortable with public transportation to be able to return to work in these big cities.
That can lead to its own set of challenges that come with car congestion in already-crowded cities.
For example, in cities like Paris, Milan, and London, officials have said they’re going to add new bicycle lanes.
The CDC offered guidance for people who have to ride mass transit or use other types of shared transportation.
The primary rule of thumb across the board is to try and stay at least six feet from other people when waiting for transportation, and once you’re on.
The CDC says that when you leave, you should wash your hands or use sanitizer that’s at least 60% alcohol, and you should do that again when you get to your destination.
Wearing face coverings is also an integral part of staying healthy and safe on mass transportation.
Before you venture out, make sure you have what you need, including sanitizing wipes and sanitizer.
If you can avoid touching surfaces, try to. This includes touch screens, benches, buttons, turnstiles, and handrails. Try to keep a row of seats between yourself and other riders when possible, and enter and exit buses through back entry doors if you can.
If you’re going to be in a rideshare vehicle, ask the driver if they can open your windows or use the air ventilation system or air conditioning system of the car in a non-recirculation mode.
The CDC has even gone so far as to recommend that employers offer incentives for employees who typically use ride-sharing or public transportation to get to work so they can use other forms of transportation to minimize their contact with other people. For example, employers might help cover the cost of parking fees if someone takes their own vehicle.
The CDC also thinks that the workplace can do things to reduce the number of people on public transportation at any given time, such as staggering work times, so there’s not a traditional rush hour anymore, or having people work on different days from one another.