Study: Public transport trips impacted by measures to prevent the spread of COVID

WILKES-BARRE – Teri Ooms, executive director of the Institute for Public Policy & Economic Development at Wilkes University, said this week that northeastern Pennsylvania is just beginning to understand the value of public transit and appreciate its importance with regard to manpower issues.

“In large metropolitan areas, public transportation is a big plus,” Ooms said. “However, in NEPA it has a bad reputation – it’s for the elderly and those with DUI.”

Ooms said projects like the Scranton Area Community Foundation’s NEPA Movements are starting to change that perception! However, as public transit begins to gain the attention the region needs, COVID is hitting.

“Travel by public transport has been affected by measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Ooms said. “The nature of bus travel means closed spaces and the potential for close contact with other people.”

Ooms said the 2021 Indicator Report found that experts have identified several factors behind the spread of COVID – closed and / or poorly ventilated spaces, overcrowded areas and contact with other people.

Given this knowledge, Ooms said vehicle transportation is a public place in which transmission of the virus can occur.

In response to the coronavirus, transit agencies have implemented the following:

• Administrative controls: training, plans, policies and procedures that articulate and enforce infection reduction efforts.

• Personal protective equipment: Gloves, masks and shields.

• Hand hygiene: hand washing, waterless hand sanitizer, no sharing of office supplies and other items.

• Environmental hygiene: Cleaning of stations, vehicles and workplaces to minimize contamination of surfaces.

• Social distancing: spacing of at least 3 to 6 feet between people to minimize contamination by droplets (sneezing and coughing.)

• Ventilation: Control of interior temperature and air flow to reduce contamination.

In some cases, preventive measures may be difficult to apply, and the type and degree of risk will vary depending on the context and environment.

Public transportation continued in the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton area during the COVID-19 pandemic, although services were sometimes limited. The most severe impacts on transit use and travel on other modes correlate with the varying permissiveness of federal, state and local restrictions, particularly the order of stay at home across the country. the state in effect in spring 2020 and phased out in mid-summer.

Recent minutes from the public meeting of transit operators in northeastern Pennsylvania suggested that local fixed-route service at the end of 2020 accounted for about 50-75% of pre-ridership. COVID and 55-65% for shared transportation service.

As the region recovers from the disruption of the pandemic, Ooms said several factors could impact the demand and ridership of public transport. Potential sources negatively impacting transit trips could be behavior modification due to the coronavirus – both a reduction in the total number of trips due to the pandemic itself and remaining restrictions on activities , and a change in mode choice away from transit due to perceptions about COVID safety in transit vehicles. State funding in the PA is also a challenge, she said.

“The evidence gathered so far does not suggest that public transport is particularly likely to facilitate the spread of COVID-19,” Ooms said. “Studies in European cities failed to find a significant link between public transport and infection clusters, although these systems were already operating at reduced ridership levels when this data was collected. Public transit also did not appear to foster the spread of COVID in Asia, although Japan and South Korea have an established culture of using masks on overcrowded transit systems. “

Ooms added that while it is ultimately the perception of driver safety that will cause ridership to return to pre-pandemic levels, the continued rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine and the gradual return to pre-pandemic behaviors support the The assumption that this factor depresses ridership will be short-term, especially since many transit users in northeastern Pennsylvania have costs or vehicle availability limiting their choice of mode of transportation.

In the meantime, effective communication of the safety measures taken is likely to be important to maintain the confidence of users who have the choice of whether or not to use public transport.

However, Ooms said there are factors that may be longer-term sources of downward pressure on public transport use. Teleworking, partial or total, has become much more common, and many employers report investing in new remote working technologies and some have started to rethink their physical space needs.

However, telecommuting is not uniformly accessible to workers in all industries and occupations. Research conducted earlier in the pandemic found that workers who could work remotely (partially or fully) tended to have higher incomes than those who could not.[i] In Pennsylvania, the modal share of public transportation (excluding taxis) to get to work was 5.6% in the 2019 American Community Survey estimate over 5 years.

However, this share was higher among low-wage workers, especially those with annual earnings below $ 25,000. Those with annual incomes over $ 35,000 commuted less often by public transit. This would suggest that the impact on public transport use of telework shifts will be limited, as low-income workers, who use public transport more frequently, are generally less able to work remotely. Insert chart 1

Ooms said there are some variations to this trend, as shown by the industry breakdown comparing the share of jobs by industry group that can be done remotely to the share of the public transport mode at scale. state of workers in this industry.

Two industry groups that account for many white-collar jobs in professional services, management, administration, information, finance, insurance and real estate, had the greatest ability to be performed remotely, but were Also ranked first in the share of public transportation modes in Pennsylvania. This trend could be primarily due to the concentration of these jobs in Pennsylvania’s two largest cities and the availability of regional rail and other transit services for suburban commuters in those areas.

“In particular, the arts, entertainment, hospitality and catering had the lowest share of telecommuting jobs as well as a high share of public transport modes,” Ooms said.

In addition to travel for work, many public transit trips are linked to obtaining health care. Ooms said at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of telehealth skyrocketed regionally and nationally.

Before the pandemic, many private and public insurances, including Medicare and Medicaid, generally did not cover telehealth visits, especially those with specialists, social workers or therapists. As of March 2020, exemptions have been in place to allow an expanded use of telehealth.

While telehealth use peaked in April and declined as many healthcare providers normalized their operations in the spring and summer of 2020, telehealth use remains much higher than at any time before the pandemic.[ii] Although the future trajectory of this trend depends heavily on the extension of these waivers (and potentially other policy changes), it is likely that telehealth will continue to play a more important role in the future than before the pandemic. .

Ooms said there are also several long-term factors linked to the pandemic that could be potential sources of growth for the use of public transport. The region’s transportation and warehousing sector was already growing before the pandemic, and it is possible that further growth could come from new investments in e-commerce by companies and long-term shifts towards purchasing. online by consumers.

As a result, logistics continued to develop in the region despite the pandemic. In the third quarter of 2020, employment in the transportation and warehousing industry in the two counties increased by more than 1,300 jobs compared to the previous year, a period in which almost all other groups industrialists saw their employment decrease.

Several of the postal codes with the highest number and / or the greatest employment growth in the industry correspond to several geographic clusters of industrial and commercial parks in the region. These parks or groups of parks are centered on Hazleton and surrounding area, Hanover Township in Luzerne County, Pittston and Jenkins Townships in Luzerne County, and the Lackawanna Valley communities of Dunmore, Throop, Olyphant and Jessup. The continued growth of these industries will require maintaining and improving public transport links between population centers and these employment centers.

Another long-term outcome that deserves to be considered is that the increase in teleworking could cause some households to rethink the choice of mode of transport.

For example, Ooms said that households where one or more people work partially or fully away from home may decide to own fewer vehicles than if all household workers worked outside the home, and instead use more flexible and varied modes of transportation that include a mix of private vehicle trips, public transportation, ridesharing apps and / or active transportation.

Contact Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.

Source link

About admin

Check Also

Best places to travel in 2022: National Geographic reveals 25 must-see destinations for next year

Want to wander? National Geographic has just released its “World’s Best 2022” listing! These 25 …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *