As the coronavirus crisis intensifies, doctors and nurses must keep going to work to save lives. Hospital cleaning staff must keep going to work to keep hospitals clean. Sanitation workers, postal workers, and grocery store workers must go to work as well.
For these essential workers to get to work in much of the country, buses and subways need to keep running.
That means transit workers are also essential workers. And like all other essential workers, they need protective equipment to do their jobs safely.
It’s not only the workers. Transit systems must operate safely for their riders as well. That means that buses and trains have to run frequently enough to ensure that passengers can practice social distancing, even as fare revenues go down with decreased ridership. In many places, the buses are running for free to minimize close contact between drivers and passengers at the farebox, adding to the revenue shortfall.
Public safety during the pandemic also requires that transit agencies routinely clean and disinfect handrails, benches, seats, and other frequently touched surfaces. And transit agencies must keep providing paratransit services for seniors, people with disabilities, and dialysis patients who depend on these services for essential trips such as medical appointments.
Doing all of this with less fare revenue is immensely challenging. The federal government needs to step in to provide needed assistance to keep transit systems operating safely through the pandemic.
The $25 billion allocated to transit in the last round of stimulus funding was a beginning, but not nearly enough. That’s why the IPS Climate Policy Program has joined over 70 other organizations to sign on to this letter asking Congress for more federal funding for transit.
“Public transit provides a lifeline to communities in crisis,” the letter says. “Much as water, electricity, sanitation, and food distribution services are essential to maintain during the pandemic, we must keep buses, subways, and other forms of transit running safely.”