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Did the CDC Toll the Death Knell for Public Transit?

It's official—the nation's leading public health agency would prefer that Americans drive alone to work to reduce exposure to the coronavirus. New CDC guidance call for government to subsidize drive-alone and single ride-share commutes.
June 2, 2020, 7am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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The header of the New York Times article published on Friday dealt a body blow to transit agencies, stating that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends, "Temperature checks, desk shields and no public transit..." in the age of the contagious novel coronavirus.

"The C.D.C. recommended that the isolation for employees should begin before they get to work — on their commute," writes Matt Richtel.  "In a stark change from public policy guidelines in the recent past, the agency said individuals should drive to work — alone."

Actually, their guidance, "COVID-19 Employer Information for Office Buildings," released May 27, does not say, "no public transit," but it's easy to see why the Times chose that wording. Their recommendations deal almost exclusively with the buildings themselves, with the exception of one bullet point under "Administrative controls: Change the way people work."

  • For employees who commute to work using public transportation or ride sharing, consider offering the following support:
    • Offer employees incentives to use forms of transportation that minimize close contact with others, such as offering reimbursement for parking for commuting to work alone or single-occupancy rides.
    • Allow employees to shift their hours so they can commute during less busy times.
    • Ask employees to wash their hands as soon as possible after their trip.

In short, the CDC is essentially telling workers to get in their own motor vehicle, drive to work, preferably during off-peak hours, and remember to wash their hands before and after their driving commute.

As for ride-sharing alternatives, the Washington Post even ruled out that option in their write-up of the new guidance:

"The CDC recommendations say workers should be encouraged to drive alone rather than sharing rides or taking public transportation," wrote Rachel Weiner and Taylor Telford.

CDC guidance for mass transit

Also on the CDC website is a "Mass Transit Decision Tool" directed to public transit agencies:

Mass transit is critical for many Americans to commute to/from work and to access essential goods and services. Mass transit may need to remain open and certain routes prioritized. Follow these guidelines for bus transit operatorsrail transit operatorstransit maintenance workers, and transit station workers.

Among the recommendations:

  • Encourage social distancing by increasing spacing of passengers and employees, closing every other row of seats and using bus rear door entry/exit, if feasible

As for public transit within the office building, i.e., elevators, their recommendation is consistent: "Limit use and occupancy of elevators to maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet."

Related in Planetizen:

Hot tip to Kenyon Karl.

Full Story:
Published on Friday, May 29, 2020 in The New York Times
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