Buses and trains are the lifeblood of most major cities across the globe, except for Los Angeles. And nobody can quite figure out why Los Angelenos shun public transit. A 2014 University of Minnesota study on public transportation ranked Los Angeles as the third-most accessible city in the country because of its rail and bus systems. But only about 1.1 million daily riders, or 8% of greater Los Angeles, used the system in January 2020, according to L.A. County Metro Transit Authority. Compare that to New York City, which is ranked #1 for accessibility. There are five million daily riders, or about 25% of the metro population.
About 1.8 million people board trains, buses and ferries - about 23% of the population - on a typical weekday in the Bay Area. But the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way people get around cities. Ridership on L.A. public transportation dropped to 364,000 daily riders in April, a 67% decrease from January. The numbers were slightly higher in June (519,000 daily riders), but still far from normal. New York is experiencing dramatic drops in ridership as well, and is taking steps to lure riders back who are fearful of COVID-19. Police enforce mask mandates and specialized transit authority workers monitor for overcrowding and lack of social distancing.
The Bay Area is facing similar issues. Jeffrey Tumlin, director of San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, described the situation to KQED as a "financial calamity." He said revenues are down by 30 to 100% across various sectors of his agency. Tumlin said those revenues would not return anytime soon. The only way to practice six feet of social distancing on buses is by reducing capacity by 80%. Tumlin said that model is unsustainable and will prevent the agency from resuming services to levels before the pandemic hit.
A March 2020 survey published by Statista found that 69% of respondents are less likely to consider public transportation due to coronavirus. Routes and modes are limited throughout the Bay Area. But many essential workers still rely on public transportation to get to and from work. Local and federal authorities have laid out several protocols for passengers to keep themselves safe and healthy on buses, trains and ferries.
The situation is fluid not only in the Bay Area, but throughout California as it relates to public transportation and COVID-19. Routes and times change often, sometimes daily. Failure to keep abreast on scheduling will make you late for work. It will also place you in situations with several other people waiting around for the same conveyance that isn't arriving.
Resources that should be checked weekly are 511.org, bart.gov and sfmta.com.
It's best to pay fares online and use your smartphone to scan upon boarding. Use touchless garbage cans that do not require you to open a lid manually. Many passengers are using rubber gloves for extra precaution. If you're not wearing gloves, wash your hands for at lest 20 seconds as soon as possible upon exiting public transportation. Carry sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to ensure your hands are carrying no germs.
Many companies are staggering start times for workers to prevent overcrowding on public transportation during traditional rush hours. Travel during non-peak hours whenever possible. Do not sit right next to anyone on a bus or train. If possible, leave a row of seats between you and the persons in front of you. Look for social distancing signs inside buses and trains and adhere to all requirements.
Eco Office has been open throughout the pandemic supplying essential services and products like partitions and plexiglass barriers to Bay Areas companies. We're even helping Uber drivers, taxi drivers and transit companies with their plexiglass needs to ensure social distancing. Give us a call today at 408-437-1700 to speak to one of our project managers.