BATWG Newsletter Issue No. 30
The impact that COVID-19 has had on transit and rail service differs widely depending on where in the world you choose to look. Certainly in the United States and Europe transit ridership is down by 70 to 90% but in Asia, after brief but complete shutdowns, it’s near normal. This is largely due to the different approaches used to treat the pandemic. Asian countries like China, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan were able to use a very affective test/trace/isolate approach developed from their experience with previous pandemics like SARS, Bird Flu, H1N1 and Ebola. The Western World, but for a few exceptions (Denmark, Germany, Norway), lacked adequate testing, which is not mandatory and has allowed COVID-19 to spread to such a point that tracing is now both more onerous and less useful.
Even now test results of PCR tests still take days to be returned while not covering the whole population.
Read more here:
China early on was able to seal off whole areas and cities. In October China was able to test 9 million people of Qingdoa in 5 days. Stores, schools and transit remained open. This is possible because testing was and is mandatory and if you want to ride transit you have to test negative or you cannot buy a ticket. All purchases are cashless and carefully connected with test results. In Korea some of the first testing sites were at train stations. Also since they have robust transit systems, countries such as New Zealand, Singapore and Japan do major testing at train stations, airports and markets. They use QR codes that display individual test results to control who can purchase tickets or otherwise access transit.
In the United States we test in health clinics, empty stadiums, fairgrounds, churches and recently at pharmacies, but so far there has been little if any integration of COVID and public transit use. There is no coordination between testing service and access to shopping centers, transit systems or airports (although United Airlines now has testing available at SFO). Tracing is inconsistent and uses varying applications depending on location. An unenforced and seemingly unenforceable requirement for face masks does nothing to find and isolate COVID transmitters. In law enforcement the police track and capture alleged criminals who, if they are found guilty are locked up. Drunk drivers are arrested and prevented from driving. But dealing effectively with the irresponsible spreading of the corona virus seems to have completely baffled our politicians.
We should restrict access to airports and transit systems only to those who have tested negative. Instead of counting on everyone to be a good citizen and wear a mask, individuals should get tested in order to have access to the community. When someone is tested they should also be sent the QR code indicating the date and the result. In order to purchase a bus, train or BART ticket the machines need to be equipped with QR readers. Apple, Google and others have apps available. Transit systems should issue warnings as to when mandatory testing will go into effect….to give themselves time to set up and their passengers time to get tested.
Dubai and Helsinki airports have started trials with COVID sniffing dogs that so far are 100% efficient and can detect COVID 4-5 days before symptoms appear (see links below). You can also do a Google search on “COVID sniffing dogs” for more details.