A study released last Tuesday 29th September by Sam Schwartz Consulting, developed for the American Public Transportation Association revealed that there is no clear correlation between Coronavirus spread and the mass transit systems. The research points out that both users of New York subway and buses have low risk of being infected during trips. This seems to be the case as long as trains and buses are well ventilated and all the occupants wear masks, which, altogether, contributes to safety.
A review of international studies proves that there is a minimum risk in the use of public transit, especially when prevention norms are in place, such as adequate ventilation systems and little chat among users.The study also claims that wearing a mask is effective to reduce the infection from person to person, by blocking the spread of the micro-drops. This justifies the requirement and demand of public transit systems in favor of the mask usage.
Regarding the explanation for the absence of positive correlation between transport use and increasing cases of COVID-19, the study mentions: 1) public transport users chat little in comparison to other closed spaces such as bars or restaurants where talking loud and even shouting is typical; 2) In many public transit systems, ventilation is more efficient than in other closed spaces; 3) Time of exposure is another variable that impacts on the probability of infection. At this point, the consulting group acknowledges that most of interurban trips are short length.
All this leads us to think that initial fears created over the public transit usage (not only in NYC but elsewhere) seem little contrasted with information from the science field. A study from the Organización de Consumidores y Usuarios from Spain showed through a survey the role of public transport among the fears of users during the opening of restrictions phase. Nevertheless, the creation of safety protocols may lead to public transport as a protected and safe place. As Xavier Querol, from the Superior Council of Scientific Research, has pointed out: “We have to devote all needed effort to prove that public transit is safe. Otherwise, air quality will get worse and will have a negative impact on people’s health”.