Can Public transportation Be Saved From Coronavirus?

  • AUTHOR: anam
  • POSTED ON: March 19, 2020

NBA has cancelled its entire season, churches have suspended their religious services for an indefinite period, schools have been shut down for three months, and presidential candidates have put an end to their rallies. 

The United States of America is on lockdown for the next three weeks! People have been asked to stay in their homes, maintain six inches contact, and stay away from large gatherings. This means no house parties or clubbing at the local bar. In fact, Americans are also asked to limit outside ventures as much as possible. 

Source: Business Insider

We’re living in the times when coughing and sneezing in public has become a taboo.  

Coronavirus has steadily made its way into more than 160 countries, in less than three months, and has taken the shape of a horrific pandemic. All of a sudden, the transit sector, airlines, public bus services, and subways have found themselves serving at the frontline of this worldwide health crisis. 

With the national emergency imposed, public transportation ridership has decreased significantly. Most people are working from home or avoiding public transit as that aids in minimizing exposure to the deadly coronavirus. Meanwhile, the public buses and subways have hiked their fare to keep their finances running. However, this move may lose them ridership even more as residents would want financial stability in such a difficult time.

Source: Reuters

For the sake of argument, it can be suggested that it’s less likely to get infected by a virus while you’re on the move. Coronavirus actually spreads by proper contact with “viral droplets” of an infected patient’s sneeze or cough. However, precaution is much better than treatment. Public transports tend to be crowded and tightly-packed. Hence, that makes the transmission fairly easy. In fact, in 2005, an investigation revealed that one ill passenger who was taking a flight from Hong Kong to Beijing was responsible for spreading the infection to passengers for as long as seven rows away.

Hence, the panic around the pandemic increases with the number of cases identified. What makes this issue so radical is the fact that, despite being so contagious, traveling can’t be stopped entirely because of this virus. People still have to go to grocery stores, some still have work to attend as for them working from home might not be an option, and some just have to travel back to their homeland. 

Source: NYI

So, the question pops: what are we doing to ensure the cleanliness of public transit services?

Well, people would take a sigh of relief after finding out that all public transportation facilities have ramped up their response plans. Considering that every day, at least, 8 million people take New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Service, you can gather a rough idea on how necessary this action was. Now when you combine this with 472 subway stations, 4,373 buses, and 6,418 train cars, the impact of this decision seems to be a game-changer.  

Anyway, what’s the plan?…. Bleach!

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority has said that it would be bringing in bulks of bleach and anti-viral treatments to clean up equipment like MetroCard machines, turnstiles, and handrails. In addition to this, after every 72 hours, subways, cars, trains and buses would be swiped clean. 

“If it smells like bleach when you get on a bus or when a child goes to school, it is not bad cologne.” – said Andrew Cuomo, the governor.  

Source: New York Times

As the idea of using the subway to travel to work seems too irrational in light of coronavirus, some people have switched to Uber and Lyft, which has been terrible for traffic, to say the least.

The impact of coronavirus is extreme as every decision of one’s life is now based around it. From postponing face-to-face meetings to maintaining social distancing to control the pandemic, residents of America are in grave trouble. The problem is not only restricted to New York City. As a matter of fact, every city is dealing with pandemic effectively. 

Take San Francisco for instance, BART officials are doing everything they can to keep public transport clean and free from the virus. They’re wiping the subways with anti-viral soaps and disinfectants. Initially, it didn’t seem like the residents of the city were bothered by the virus. However, after viewing how rapidly the number of infected cases is growing, they’ve taken a backseat, too. According to Mercury News, 405,000 people used the subway on a daily basis in the month of February. However, the number took a huge beating last week as it reduced to 1.86 million passengers only. 

Los Angeles has been making efforts to maintain social distancing in its own way. From restricting restaurants to takeout and delivery to closing gyms and other entertainment-related venues, the roads seem to be less populated than usual. 

Ever since an LAX police officer was tested positive for coronavirus, the health officials are doing everything in their power to send everybody related to him to quarantine. 

“We’re working to identify any other officers or employees who may have had prolonged or close contact with this individual. County Health is conducting thorough interviews to determine who else may be at risk.”

Apart from this, the Long Island Rail Road has experienced a 31% decline in ridership, which to be fair is nothing compared to the 48% decline in ridership which the suburban communities in Westchester, Connecticut, and Rockwell are facing. 

Source: Reuters

However, it does seem like some places would never experience a lull. For example, Grand Central Station and Penn Station are the two places that are still bustling. But yes, they are not as busy as they are on their regular days. Still, a large group of passengers show up every day, even with the rising number of identified cases. In the first week of March, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has reported a 2.5% drop in its overall ridership.

So, we can all conclude with one thing: We’re doing everything that we can do to minimize the damage. 

Stay safe, everyone! 

Updated March 19, 2020
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