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Managing Mass Transit Systems in the Post-COVID World


bus ride covid-19

If you’re in the business of managing our public transit facilities- subways, buses, trains, light rail systems, et al- you know only too well how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected your operations.

As the Associated Press recently reported, “Mass transit systems around the world have taken unprecedented—and expensive—steps to curb the spread of the coronavirus.”


From a management point of view, the impact this pandemic is having on ridership is serious. In New York, for instance, the number of people travelling on the MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority) is down by 75%. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), for its part, reports an overall decline in ridership of 82%. Likewise, Washington DC’s WMATA (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority) says that rail ridership is down 90%, and bus ridership by 65%. Even the UK’s much-praised TfL (Transport for London) has seen the number of people travelling by bus down 76%, while the Tube has experienced an 88% decline!


The question is: What can you, as managers, do, right now, to diminish the impact of viral scourge ̶ especially given the fact that public transportation systems are regarded as one of the highest-risk environments for spreading the coronavirus?



Getting Down to Specifics with Your Staff


Well, you can begin by doing more than your customary, daily wipe downs of vehicles and buildings. Some transit managers now have these cleanings conducted twice a day; some have even opted for three times a day.


A small number of transit agencies- generally those in big cities with very high ridership numbers ̶ are carrying out these deep-cleaning procedures once every four hours. Needless to say, only well-funded agencies with sufficient staff are a