Public Transportation has taken a “gut-punch” from the Coronavirus. After three quarters of 2019 showing the promise of increased ridership here in the US, now demand for public transit appears to have dropped by about 70%[i]. Commuter trains and buses have taken an even larger hit with systems like Long Island Railroad only operating with 10% of their normal passenger counts[ii] and privately owned passenger trains like Virgin Brightline in south Florida simply shutting down[iii].
Transit Leaders Act
I have spoken with over twenty top public transit leaders around North America and during this pandemic they are responding with creative solutions such as using Autonomous Vehicles in Jacksonville, FL to transport testing samples from drive through testing sites to the hospitals or in San Antonio, TX placing paratransit vehicles with Wi-Fi at apartment complexes without Wi-Fi so students there can do their schoolwork online. Many other agencies are using drivers to deliver meals on wheels and supplies.
Transit workers are being recognized as “heroes” on the front lines of this battle against the Coronavirus and Washington, DC has responded with a $25 Billion stimulus package for public transit agencies in the US to help them deal with the increased cost and reduced fares and other revenues that this pandemic leaves in its wake.
What can be done
Several possible options are being discussed to help transit recover riders more quickly:
1. Maintain high cleaning protocols of buses, trains and stations and note the time cleaned on Bus Destination Sign and other electronic signs.
2. Make transit experience as “touch-less” as possible. Such as usage of contactless fare cards and e-faring.
3. Improved marketing messages using local heroes (bus operators and cleaners) noting transit is safe, clean, good for the environment and an essential service.
Transit is being touted as an essential service and we need to ensure we retain this status as we recover riders and revenue to continue providing mobility to all.
[i] https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/01/transit-data-economy/ [ii] https://brooklyneagle.com/articles/2020/04/08/new-york-city-subway-ridership-down-92- percent-due-to-coronavirus/ [iii] https://www.orlandoweekly.com/Blogs/archives/2020/03/25/floridas-brightline-train-service-suspended-indefinitely-during-coronavirus-shutdown