Stepping up during a crisis

Transit and mobility leaders respond to uncertain and dangerous times

Tim Bruns / April 30, 2020
Tim Bruns

It’s hard to know where to begin when discussing the current state of any industry. As much as it has impacted nearly every facet of public life, the ongoing public health crisis has touched several segments of transportation, particularly public transit.

Just this month, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) issued a safety advisory for recommended actions to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) among transit employees and passengers. Face coverings, social distancing, frequent hand washing, and thorough facility and vehicle cleaning are among the safety guidelines, which were issued not long after several transit unions demanded the agencies that employ them provide protective measures to safeguard transit workers. An April 20 news report from The Guardian found that nearly 100 U.S. transit workers had died from COVID-19 since the outbreak began. 

FTA also announced earlier in the month that CARES Act funding would be dedicated to help transit providers prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19. This came on the heels of industry calls to support essential public transportation services, as the industry is seeing dramatic reductions in ridership due to the workplace restrictions and stay-at-home orders for non-essential workers, with an estimated $14 billion in losses expected in both fare and sales tax revenue.

Additionally, this month has seen mobility providers stepping up in small but important ways to respond to the crisis. Mobility as a Service (MaaS) provider Moovit this month announced the launch of its Emergency Mobilization On-Demand service, created for transit agencies and enterprises during the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to ensure critical workers make it to their destination without putting their health or others’ health at risk.

The Miami-Dade Transit agency developed a partnership with ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft to provide essential workers with transportation options along suspended late-night bus routes. 

The city of Oakland, California rolled out a Slow Streets plan designed to turn 74 miles of neighborhood streets into spaces dedicated for bicyclists and pedestrians to more safely walk and bike throughout the city with sufficient space for physical distancing.

Finally, this month has seen autonomous vehicles (AVs) lending a hand—figuratively speaking—in the efforts to combat the pandemic, as the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida is using AVs to safely transport medical supplies and COVID-19 tests collected at a drive-thru testing location and sent to a processing laboratory on Mayo Clinic's campus. 

While the uncertainty of the pandemic continues, it is encouraging to see transit and mobility leaders step up to assist essential workers and the health care industries. Furthermore, it is commendable that transit workers across the nation are making their voices heard to raise awareness of the dangers they face every day and of the necessity for personal protective equipment and preventative procedures as they continue to work on the front lines during this public health crisis.

As we move through this unprecedented time, Traffic & Transit is continuing to provide coverage of the latest developments in the intelligent transportation, traffic management, traffic safety, and transit industries. This includes our monthly feature-length content—which you can find in our Monthly Industry Monitor newsletter or in the Featured Articles section of the website—in addition to our daily news coverage and weekly newsletters. 

For the month of April, we are featuring stories on transportation systems management and operations (TSMO) strategies, increasing work zone safety, and a new light-rail transit line.

In the article “How TSMO Facilitates Successful Transportation Systems,” John Hibbard, operations director in the greater Atlanta area for the Georgia DOT, breaks down the history of TSMO and how several projects and programs have successfully implemented TSMO strategies. Hibbard says TSMO strategies employed by the department “helped to manage the diversion of the tremendous volume of traffic” in the aftermath of the I-85 northbound bridge collapse over Piedmont Road in 2017. These strategies were also effective when the state hosted Super Bowl LIII in February 2019. 

Taylor Wills of Royal Truck & Equipment Inc. walks through the dangers of work zones in “Contractors can pave the way to safer work zones across the U.S.” The article points out the fact that in states without regulations, “contractors are entrusted with determining what makes a work zone safe, and it is assumed that they are both diligent and knowledgeable in their approach to work zone safety.” Wills says that as states work to amp up work zone regulations, new technologies can be adopted by contractors to boost safety on jobsites.

Finally, Eric Miller of LTK Engineering Services tells the story of the “Development of a light-rail extension in downtown Denver.” This is the story of the Denver metro area’s L Line, which was part of the Regional Transportation District’s Central Rail Extension project. The new light-rail extension has helped improve safety, increase system reliability, and cultivate ridership for the region’s light rail system.

Whether you’re staying home or are considered essential, our coverage is here for you to enjoy and keep you informed. Stay safe out there!

About the Author

Bruns is associate managing editor of Traffic & Transit.

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