COVID-19 Impact on the Public Transportation Industry’s Ridership

Published: April 08, 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) PandemicLand Vehicles & EquipmentOperations & MaintenanceOther Products & MaterialsTransportation

Ridership has drastically declined as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Transit agencies initiate new practices to protect passengers and employees still using the public transportation.

The novel coronavirus has had a significant impact on public transportation. Ridership is down as high as 60% in parts of the country as citizens follow social distancing guidelines and stay-in-place orders. As a result in decreased ridership, revenue is down for many transit agencies within the United States. Transit agencies will be receiving financial aid from the recently passed CARES act to help in their recovery and slump in revenue during the ongoing pandemic. While this will economically help transit agencies make up on lost revenue, the impact that coronavirus has on public transit will not end when humans do begin to eliminate the virus from society. There will be a lasting impact on the public transportation sector for years to come, and likely one of the most affected areas of conversation will be ridership levels.

We are already beginning to see this impact in several ways. Some transit agencies have instituted rear door boarding on their fleet of buses, to limit interactions for their drivers with potentially contagious passengers. The Houston Metro has installed orange mesh fencing in their local buses to ensure social distancing guidelines are followed between the bus operator and passengers. Services have also been drastically reduced across transit agencies, and in some cases eliminated as a result of the decrease in ridership.

These changes are likely to remain and we can speculate that they may even lead to more expansive measures long after the virus has been contained. Humans naturally will be wary of getting on a crowded train car, or jam packed bus in the months and years after this pandemic. Transit agencies will do all they can to convince passengers that their services are safe to use. These possible measures will expand into enhanced cleaning measures by using ultraviolet technology, hand sanitizer stations in train stations and perhaps even installed inside of train cars and buses. They may likely even promote people’s use of facemasks while using public transit. The use of facemasks in public transit will likely become common practice within the United States regardless if a transit agency promotes it or not. However, if transit agencies can properly market themselves to be at the forefront of future virus mitigation and prevention, they will earn the trust of more and more passengers as time goes on.

The public transportation industry will have a long uphill battle ahead of them to convince passengers it will be safe for them to ride on their systems again.

Below are some additional helpful links with more insight into the effect coronavirus is having on public transit within the United States: