Scenario 1: COVID Pandemic is Ongoing
How should the customer experience change?
Contactless fare payment that overcomes challenges for unbanked households
Free public transit
Public comment/crowdsourced feedback on pandemic service adjustments
Public transit reservations (e.g., Beijing, NYC)
Social distancing and PPE communications campaign
Demonstrating service adjustments through visualizations and other tools (e.g., AC Transit’s SAVE)
Visible signs of change, such as touchless payment systems
Convey to customers via marketing and operational visibility how public transit is being kept clean (e.g., greater visibility of janitorial/sanitizing staff, etc.)
Ask customers for feedback on experience and how to enhance safety and cleanliness
Develop a healthy rider campaign
Implement a mask, hand hygiene, and cough/sneeze etiquette campaign
Provide customers with real time vehicle capacity and crowding information
Rider health screening (e.g., temperature checks)
Transit should engage riders to demonstrate that their own behaviors help to make transit safer and provide the proof that these behaviors make a difference.
To attract transit riders back, and to reassure transit employees about workplace safety, it is critical that: both groups believe transit is a safe place; both groups are motivated to engage in behaviors that promote and ensure safety; and both groups are confident that others are also committed to safety goals. These factors are both about perception (users and employees perceive transit as being safe) and positive behavior reinforcement for both groups to behave in ways that continue to keep transit safe.
The outreach and engagement efforts should be supplemented by surveys of patrons to assess their feelings about the outreach and engagement, as well as their feelings about using the system. The feedback should be sought in a number of ways to capture as broad a cross-section as possible. This should include onboard paper surveys (in languages prevalent in the community), text surveys and online surveys.
Adapt to new customer preferences (e.g., new services, pricing, marketing, travel demand – spatial and temporal), etc.
Work with the federal government to implement necessary waivers to enhance safety and service in a pandemic environment
Rider responsibilities are recognized as standard and obligatory.
What are the most immediate health priorities for transit agencies?
Lower vehicle/rail capacity limits and designate locations for riders (e.g., Ann Arbor limits buses to 15 riders)
Deploying larger public transit vehicles to ensure social distancing (e.g., Amsterdam deploying larger ferry fleets)
Implementing automated doors to reduce touch surfaces
(See safety section)
Operational changes and capital investments to support rider, front-end labor, and back-end labor health and safety: HVAC/air ventilzation improvements, touch services, changing to contactless and virtual systems where feasible
Employ hand sanitizing stations in strategic locations throughout transit facilities and rolling stock
Use a broad spectrum of EPA/CDC approved disinfectants
Ensure biohazard kit availability to transit employees
Implement hands free equipment in all bathroom facilities
Evaluate facilities and rolling stock to ensure high occupant density areas meet sufficient ventilation requirements
Evaluate facilities and rolling stock to ensure HVAC equipment is properly installed and maintained
Develop standardized cleaning and disinfecting practices for all facilities and rolling stock
Analyze rider data to identify potential high-risk locations and times
Implement cleaning audits to validate cleaning and disinfection protocols
Develop a health labor campaign (e.g., PPE, social distancing, restroom locator, etc.)
Continue to require PPE while riding transit
Partitions to protect passengers and staff/drivers
Implementing new boarding/waiting procedures to encourage social distance
Employing advanced data analytics so transit agencies can know what riders want without asking and to launch personalized marketing campaigns
Employing data analytics to monitor COVID cases in order to pivot if cases surge
Monitor COVID-19 cases and epidemeological adaptations that could require service and/or cleaning changes
Require masks and social distancing
Develop processes and procedures for contact tracing (including data management and security practices)
Transparency to instill public confidence and organizational accountability.
What are the most important operational adjustments transit agencies should consider?
Ensuring mobility and accessibility for disadvantaged communities during the pandemic
Implementing service changes equitably, with an emphasis on minimizing transportation and economic impacts on disadvantaged communities
Mitigating the impact of COVID-19 service changes on vulnerable populations (e.g., ensuring adequate low-density, late-night, ADA, and other services (or equivalent services)
Pandemic service planning to ensure services meet community needs, serve vulnerable populations, and reflect changes in travel behavior (e.g., a bus line with 10-minute headways may no longer be needed to serve an employer that telecommutes indefinitely)
Pivot routes and schedules to serving essential workers
Reschedule routes reflecting demand and limit of passengers for social distance
Monitor data and trends (travel behavior, economic, employment, etc.) to ensure services are agile and responsive to a changing environment
Evaluate whether the existing routes are appropriate for pandemic travel behavior (e.g., more point-to-point routing instead of hub/spoke or hierarchical routing may be appropriate to reduce crowding and encourage social distance)
Temporarily reschedule routes and adjust capacity to respond to shfts in demand and potential virus outreaks/re-emerging waves/stay-at-home orders
New/temporary services designed for essential workers (e.g., Abu Dhabi’s microtransit for healthcare workers)”
Incorporate new standards of cleaning (surface and aerosole) before a fleet is deployed, while deployed, and after returning for maintenance; also incorporate new cleaning standards in all front-office and back-office operations
Promote additional HEPA filtration, air circulation, and air diffusers, as appropriate
Review passenger flow, boarding, and other procedures to encourage social distancing
Promote driverless vehicle deployments
Promote additional cleaning protocols prior to equipment entering service and part way through their duty day
Promote rear door boarding
Repurpose routes/equipment to temporarily provide last mile delivery (instead of passenger mobility)
Promote hazard mitigation and continuity of operations planning for future pandemics and disasters
Ccreate outreach that educates employees on the actions the agency is taking to keep them safe. Primarily, this would be internally focused but could also include an external component to make riders feel safer by helping them understand that transit employees are in partnership with them. This should include extensive coverage of the cleaning protocols and data that result due to the measures. Examples: design contest with prizes; giving groups of employees the same branded mask to wear; rewards to groups of employees for the highest level of compliance with safety programs; other incentivizing recognition
Reallocate resources from commuter-type services that are not heavily used and refocusing the system to meet rider demands
Promote public transit by enhancing headways on frequently used routes to promote social distancing and providing enhanced service to heavily frequented destinations. This may be as simple as additional trips provided to medical facilities, grocery stores and other needed community service
Provide frequent service that aligns with hospital capacity
Promote flexible service adjustments to reflect changing demand and community needs.
Promote greater focus on customer satisfaction and performance metrics to measure satisfaction and other KPIs
Standardize testing and relate quality assurance methodology, specifically for transit, should be established in relation to recommended ventilation and air sanitization measures, as well as for individual architectural interventions dealing with sanitizing high-touch surfaces.
Establish new station design guidelines in terms of selection of individual measures or combination thereof that exhibit highest efficiencies in terms of rider and employee safety.
Station design or refurbishment should promote the concept of “light and air” as well as one-way flows and equal distribution of passengers throughout a transit facility and/or vehicle. One could also consider a pandemic scenario that temporarily switches certain key stations to entry- or exit-only stations to promote unidirectional passenger flow. The use of pedestrian simulation software to test and refine station design should be the norm.
3D airflow simulations should be established for buses and other rolling stock in order to improve cabin air circulation and avoid local air-recirculation zones where pathogens might stall, for both summer and winter conditions.
What are the most important partnerships for transit agencies to establish?
Partners with mobility service providers to offer socially distanced, low-occupancy alternatives during the pandemic (e.g., partnerships with micromobility and single passenger TNCs temporaily)
Use position in the community to become the mobility manager and bring together other modes such as micromobility to assist community members with mobility needs
Partner with other agencies and the private sector to develop/enhance integrated apps (e.g., MaaS) platforms and mobility service offerings. Note, this role could vary considerably for the agency (e.g., providing services, offering funding, acting as a facilitator, partnering with the private sector, etc.)
Leverage MOD partnerships for cost savings (in lieu of fixed route service)
Partner with public safety departments
Partnerships with cleaning and edpidemeology SMEs (e.g., United Airlines has partned with Clorox for cleaning and the Cleveland Clinic to advise on new technologies, training development and quality assurance programming)
Establish and maintain relationships with the CDC and departments of health
Create an inter and intra agency committee on infectious disease
Message and build rider trust through traditional and social media
Identify frontline essential vs. non-essential workers
Promote air purification and sanitization with agents such as hydrogen peroxide, ozone or ions are broadly used in other industries (agriculture, food, healthcare, etc.). Historical experiences, lessons learned and new research on the subject should be shared and published to improve the understanding and to facilitate the use of these technologies for transit purposes. Such a holistic and integrated approach would facilitate innovations and utilization of these technologies for public transit as well as allow adequate assessment of their safety, required dosage, and design, including appropriate 3D simulations, maintenance, operations, reliability and efficiency.
Develop a simple mathematical model to quantitatively describe the risk of COVID-19 indoor airborne infection transmission based on the carbon dioxide concentration
Use autonomous vehicles (currently in the testing phase) to reduce exposure
Use private capital and innovations for safety practices such as implementing social distancing, implementing contactless features, providing sanitizers and face masks to transit users, and disinfecting transit facilities and assets.
Use traditional and social media
Use criteria and methodology for assessment of specific ventilation requirements for transit facilities and
vehicles should be established, especially requirements for fresh air exchange rates for enclosed
transit rooms while considering density of transit riders and employees, specific features of transit
facilities and vehicles, and related HVAC systems.
Use technical and performance specifications for ventilation or air purification/sanitization measures
should be developed for application in tenders for new rolling stock, refurbishment of existing rolling
stock, new station design, and refurbishing existing and/or grandfathered stations.”
Use position in the community to become the mobility manager – bring together other modes, micromobility to assist community members with mobility needs
Promote transit as a steward and supportive of economic growth via workforce development
Promote the essential role played by transit agencies is fully supported by city partners, funding and planning agencies (MPO’s, NAACTO, Transit Center, etc.), and modal agency partners
Promote transit agencies provide opportunities for skilled employment. Economic recovery includes the agencies themselves.”
Transit facilitates affordable housing connectivity and contributes to the reduction of the homeless population by providing access to jobs and social services.
Transit connects the returning workforce to business hubs (offices, storefronts, etc.) and reduces access hurdles. It’s a value proposition to move people to/from jobs – essential to restart local economies.
Transit provides connections and may seek trips paid for by healthcare / medical industry partnerships.
Transit brings people to food and food to people in need.
Transit offers free Wi-Fi for disadvantaged communities to enable distance learning and telework”
What are the biggest financial concerns?
Ability to provide critical transportation services for vulnerable populations in a severely fiscally constrained environment
Choice riders shift to SOVs due to safety concerns and induced demand created by reduced congestion with telework
Capital and operational costs of enhanced cleaning protocols
Cost of providing masks and other PPE
Managing debts (operations, unforeseen costs such as cleaning) incurred during the pandemic
Commencing fare collection after any free fare period has ended
Budget for similar situations should reflect larger reserve funds
Contract flexibility to furlough staff, delay capital projects, and defer maintenance, as appropriate
Cost of new procedures, equipment, training, insurance, and risk management associated with infectious disease
PPE and social distancing enforcement
Competing budget pressures and priorities.
Managing debts incurred during the pandemic
Lack of federal grants/subsidies to make up revenue loss/increased costs and/or having to scale back operations to meet a new funding reality
How to sustain all non-operating programs through marketing, planning, customer relations, and more
Funding from the FTA requires agencies to incur costs, then
submit for reimbursement. This presents cash flow challenges for
agencies whose funding streams are deferred due to COVID-19.
Capital investment projects may receive federally funding but are 100% responsible for overages since COVID-19 due to compromised supply chains and construction costs increasing due to delays and to preventive measures to protect the health of labor