Looking forward

Sept. 25, 2020

Public transit agencies making progress on major projects while committing to safety

Just a few weeks ago, I took a trip using public transportation for the first time since the stay-at-home and social distancing orders as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic began back in March.

I live on the northwest side of Chicago, and I decided to spend some time downtown and along the lakefront on a weeknight. Parking in that area of the city can often be difficult to find or expensive, so public transportation is often the best way to get down there. I also live right next to a Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Blue Line train station. 

I hopped on the CTA on a Wednesday night, which under normal circumstances in another year, I would have likely seen a decent number of fellow passengers boarding the same car. But there were maybe three or four other people sharing the vehicle for this trip. Stop after stop, I saw what seemed like such a low turnout on every Blue Line platform for what I considered to be a beautiful, late summer evening in Chicago. 

It was clear each of my fellow passengers were doing their best to keep their distance from each other, as everyone was spread out in different sections of the train car. Even with social distancing and seeing that everyone else was wearing masks, I couldn’t help but still feel nervous about taking public transportation during a pandemic. And this was also after having just interviewed someone from the CTA last month about the agency’s extensive cleaning procedures and other precautions being implemented for public transit services to prevent the spread of coronavirus. This coming from someone who has not needed to take public transit within the last six months to access work, grocery stores, or healthcare services on a regular basis.

For this reason, I am grateful for the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) coming out this month to affirm their commitment to protecting the public with the announcement of the association’s “Health and Safety Commitments Program,” which serves as the public transportation industry’s overarching pledge to passengers that public transit systems are taking all the necessary measures to operate safely as the nation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. This is particularly crucial for today’s essential workers, those who rely on public transportation on a regular basis, and of course, for public transit workers themselves.

As we enter the final quarter of 2020, the public transit industry is showing that there is still much to look forward to. In the past month, I’ve seen several stories about the progress being made on major public transit projects across the country. One in particular is the completion of the N Line in the Denver metro region, which just had its grand opening this past week.

This month, our coverage for Traffic & Transit included another recently completed transit project—the Tempo bus rapid transit (BRT) line, the latest addition for the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (AC Transit) in the Bay Area. Completed in early August, the $232 million project is the East Bay’s first-ever BRT system and creates a 9.5-mile connection between Oakland and San Leandro. You can read more about the project in the article “Keeping up with the ‘Tempo’ in bus rapid transit.”

The rest of our coverage includes "Keeping the fleet fit for the Big Chill," which details how the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority prepares for winter, as well as how statistical techniques and data collection can assess the functional and structural performance of roads in "How to preserve your infrastructure against climate change."

Happy reading!

About The Author: Bruns is associate managing editor of Traffic & Transit.