How Cities Have Pivoted Mobility and Transit to Address COVID-19 | To say that the COVID-19 pandemic brought about change to people’s day-to-day lives would be a vast understatement. Not only did the lethal virus strain bring about drastic changes to people’s daily routines, but it also affected the different aspects of the economy severely — the transport sector included.
Commuting via the available modes of transportation in the city has played a big role in getting people to where they need to go, especially since not everyone can afford to have a private vehicle. The people would rely on the trains, buses, subways, taxis, and other transportation options because these are much cheaper than the obvious alternative, which is to buy their cars.
However, since being in an enclosed space, like a bus or subway car, with potential carriers of the virus is a big health risk, this urged the commuters to steer clear of public vehicles. Of course, not everyone has the means to rely on private options such as ride-sharing apps, so that meant that the transport service providers have to adapt to serve the public.
Fortunately, schools and businesses alike have since ruled out face-to-face interactions in their daily operations. Thousands upon thousands of students and employees across the globe received their education or performed their jobs from home — a solution to reduce the possibility of transmitting and contracting the virus in public.
This meant that transport service providers, such as SMRT in Singapore, would have more time to adapt their operations and protocols while only accommodating half of their usual number of passengers pre-pandemic. Here’s a quick look at what changed in how modes of public transportation in cities operate:
Before the pandemic, an overly crowded subway car or bus would be considered an average workday. However, this is no longer acceptable in the time of corona because social distancing between commuters is not only suggested but also strictly enforced to minimize the possibility of transmission.
All commuters must wear masks and go through a temperature check before riding the train or bus. They must also be distanced at least one meter apart as a safety measure, which meant that the public vehicles can only operate at a capped transit capacity to reduce the risk of transmissions, indefinitely.
Since the digital age is all about giving everyone access to real-time data via online channels and social media platforms, it’s helpful if public transport services can provide updates for their passengers through these means. For instance, there’s SMRT and their mobile app for passengers, SMRTConnect.
This app can be used by all passengers who would want information on the arrival times of trains and buses, so they can easily plan their journeys without putting their safety at risk. Plus, because the app provides real-time updates and travel suggestions, the commuters won’t have to worry about being late to their appointments due to inaccurate information.
Sanitation and Disinfection
COVID-19 is a virus that can be transmitted through droplets that come out from the mouth every time a carrier coughs or speaks without a mask. If a carrier rides a public transport vehicle without a mask, it can lead to a much higher transmission rate. But even if everyone is wearing masks, it’s still crucial to disinfect and sanitize the vehicle regularly.
Transport service providers have to work twice as hard in maintaining their vehicles to be deemed safe for the commuters. They need to wipe down all surfaces, disinfect the seats, and ventilate the vehicles before every travel. And it would be a plus if they can offer hand sanitizing stations throughout the terminals for passengers who don’t have their own sanitizers.
Mobile and cashless payment options already existed before the pandemic, but they weren’t used as much as paper bills. However, the coronavirus pandemic deemed direct contact between people as a health risk, which meant that contactless payments were soon to be named as the primary mode of transactions.
Luckily, there are a lot of transport service providers who had implemented the “tap to pay” system wherein their passengers can use contactless cards or their phones to ride the vehicles instead of standing in line to get tickets from kiosks and tellers. But of course, most public transport vehicles in developing countries have yet to adopt the contactless payment method.
There is still hope that one day, all public transit vehicles can operate at full capacity again and passengers would no longer have to wear masks or distance themselves from one another. But until the pandemic is curbed, and countries have reached herd immunity against the COVID-19 virus, everyone has to do their part in reducing the rate of transmission, even if it means putting in more effort to just ride the trains.