As riders return to public transportation, surveys show that passengers want to be assured steps have been taken to provide a safe ride. - Proterra

As riders return to public transportation, surveys show that passengers want to be assured steps have been taken to provide a safe ride.

Proterra

The SamTrans board voted to endorse the Bay Area Healthy Transit Plan at its September meeting. The regional transit plan outlines action items for frequent cleaning, personal protective equipment, face coverings, social distancing, ventilation, and touchless fares to keep transit safe for all Bay Area residents and transit employees.

As riders return to public transportation, surveys show that passengers want to be assured steps have been taken to provide a safe ride. To provide that assurance, transit agencies from throughout the Bay Area have established common commitments based upon the industry’s best health-related practices to strengthen trust in riding public transportation. The plan was crafted using guidance and best practices from the California Department of Public Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization, as well as other transit agencies from around the world.

The plan calls for improvements in the operation and maintenance of transit agencies, as well as encouraging safer behaviors among riders. It calls for face coverings, physical distancing, and hand washing, and recommends riders minimize verbal activities that could help to spread COVID-19, and the use of a Clipper card or mobile apps for touchless payment. Additionally, it recommends expanded cleaning and disinfecting practices, as well as maximizing fresh air on board.

Protecting transit employees is another fundamental goal of the plan. Agencies are advised to develop a wellness assessment protocol for employees, provide adequate personal protection equipment (PPE), encourage physical distancing, give access to testing, and develop a contact tracing policy in case of employees testing positive. SamTrans had already implemented these policies earlier in the pandemic.

“It has never been more critical for our respective agencies to come together and collaborate with a common goal of preserving safe, reliable public transit for those who need it most,” said San Mateo County Transit District GM/CEO Jim Hartnett. “While COVID-19 presents much uncertainty, it remains a constant that the regional economy cannot sustainably rely solely on single-occupancy vehicles.”

The plan represents sets a baseline for transit agencies and does not preclude agencies from implementing additional practices if they are deemed necessary. As new information becomes available, the standards laid out in the plan will evolve and adapt to ensure that the best practices are in place.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission formed a 30-member Blue Ribbon Transit Recovery Task Force that has worked with the Bay Area’s local public transit agencies to develop the Healthy Transit Plan. Agency collaboration included, large, small, and multimodal providers. Additionally, transit providers engaged with and received insightful input from paratransit partners, county health officials and labor representatives to create the plan.

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