Public transportation in our towns is highly vulnerable to disease outbreaks like the worldwide coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. However, public transportation is the lifeblood of our cities, so it is desirable to keep services running as long as you possibly can.
The confined spaces and restricted ventilation of public transportation vehicles can lead to infections among passengers, while frontline transportation workers are especially exposed. An outbreak among these employees could bring whole fleets to a standstill. It would also disrupt the traveling health workers who must be mobilized throughout the pandemic.
Unions representing transportation workers have voiced their concerns and enforced actions including a unilateral ban on cash handling. The Australian government has provided guidelines for passengers and drivers. Transport authorities have participated in expert taskforces and started the process of sourcing products such as hand sanitizers.
While these measures are important, certainly we want guidance beyond general directions to “practice good hygiene” and”use disinfectant wipes”?
What are other countries doing?
In China, despite the majority of the nation is in lockdown, public transportation was completely suspended only in Wuhan and its commuter belt. Buses were then utilized to move medical staff and deliver products.
Most other Chinese towns conducted reduced public transportation services, with a heavy focus on cleanliness and hygiene.
In many cities, the temperatures of transportation staff are assessed daily. They’re equipped with adequate protection equipment like face masks and gloves. Masks are compulsory for all passengers and staff, as is common practice across Asia.
In a normal town like Shenzhen, the bus fleet is sanitized after each trip. Particular attention is paid to seats, armrests, and manages. In depots and interchanges, this is done as frequently as every 2 hours.
Buses are filled to no more than 50% capacity (one person per chair). On-board cameras are utilized to enforce this principle. Floor markings (also embraced in Europe) provide a guide to minimum distances between passengers and promote social distancing.
Around China, health control checkpoints are being used at metro and train stations (and in many private and public buildings). This permits temperature tests as well as the tracing of the movement of people, in the event of contact with a suspected COVID-19 carrier. In most taxis, buses, and subway carriages, passengers are invited to scan a QR code to register their name and contact number, to assist with contact tracing.
Cities around Asia are supplying hand sanitizer gel in public transportation vehicles and interchanges. The cleaning of air conditioning filters has been improved. To improve natural ventilation and reduce the chance of disease, some operators have retrofitted window vents to air-conditioned fleets.
Hong Kong railroad operator MTR is using a fleet of cleaning robots to disinfect stations and trains. In Shanghai, ultraviolet light is used to disinfect buses.
In Europe, many people transportation agencies have shut off the use of their front door to reduce disease risk for drivers. Passengers now use the back door (all-door boarding has been common practice).
What’s happening in Australia?
One of the best ways to reduce disease risk is to measure up cleaning efforts. Public transport operators are already doing this, but not to the extent required throughout the course of their day.
Most private bus operators (contracted to authorities ) are just not equipped to undertake the gigantic task if needed to disinfect their vehicles, say, three times per day. For many operators, drivers are required to”sweep” their bus at the end of the shift. Buses undergo a complete interior clean overnight.
There isn’t any capability to wash buses en route during changes. Extreme cases like biohazard incidents (smoke and blood ) require vehicles to be removed from service.
To raise the frequency of cleaning, maybe a government authority could organize “rapid response” cleaners stationed at terminals. Even though this may cause delays involving trips, it might reduce the strain on individual operators.