Port Authority issues temporary social distancing policies for bus and light rail

Port Authority issues temporary social distancing policies for bus and light rail
click to enlarge PHOTO: ISTOCK

Photo: Istock

Effective immediately, the Port Authority of Allegheny County is enacting a temporary Social Distancing Policy on its fleet of buses, light rails, and inclines. The policy is in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has spread across the globe and is transferred relatively easily by human-to-human contact and through infected surfaces.

Port Authority will be ensuring transit riders keep at least six feet apart while on-board vehicles, and priority seating areas will remain unused in the upright position unless needed.

One of the most effective ways to stop the spread of coronavirus is to drastically reduce interactions with other people. As of March 18, Allegheny County had 12 confirmed or presumptive positive cases of coronavirus. There are at least 133 confirmed cases statewide. Today, Pennsylvania saw its first death related to coronavirus, an adult in Northampton County.

“Port Authority continues to encourage customers use common sense hygiene practices to limit the spread of germs and illness, like washing your hands or using hand sanitizer immediately after riding the bus or light rail vehicle; changing your seat if you notice someone near you who appears to be sick; sitting down if possible so you can avoid holding on to poles and straps; and staying home if you are sick,” reads a press release.

According to the Port Authority, the temporary policies will be in place until Pennsylvania and Allegheny County lift their states of emergency.

A social distancing policy for Port Authority comes at a time when it might actually be easier to implement. Port Authority spokesperson Adam Brandolph says there has been a “significant decrease” in ridership since the announced coronavirus closures. He says the authority has also had to spend significantly more on cleaning buses and light-rail cars much more frequently, as well as paying staff overtime.

“There are major major expenses that we currently have,” says Brandolph.

In the short run, this might not be as catastrophic for Port Authority because the agency only receives about 25% of its revenue from fares, where as many other large transit agencies receive about 50% of revenue from fares. The Metro in Washington, D.C. for example has already made drastic service cuts in response to coronavirus.

Brandolph says potential federal funding will be key in ensuring Port Authority can maintain the same level of service during the coronavirus pandemic.