Taking Public Transit During COVID-19? 5 Tips to Reduce Your Risk

Your actions protect you and your fellow passengers.

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Taking public transportation obviously comes with some risks during the COVID-19 pandemic. You may find yourself on a crowded bus with many people outside your household, and there are many frequently touched surfaces. Luckily, there are several ways to make your commute safer while using public transit during COVID-19.

Staying Safe on Public Transit During COVID-19

For starters, many cities are using creative strategies to lower COVID-19 risks on their buses and trains. Many require cloth face coverings for the driver and all passengers. In some places, operators may limit the number of passengers to allow for proper social distancing. Additionally, several transit programs have stepped up their sanitation procedures to clean frequently touched surfaces.

That said, your own behaviors can help reduce your risk of COVID-19 while taking public transit. Here are the recommended steps to commute safely:

1. Wear a mask or cloth face covering

Even if your city’s transit program doesn’t require face coverings, mask up anyway. Cloth face coverings help inhibit the release of respiratory droplets from your mouth and nose, which may carry the coronavirus. Wearing a mask protects others in case you are infected without knowing it. Learn more about types of face masks for COVID-19 here.

2. Keep your hands to yourself

Avoid touching surfaces, such as:

  • Kiosks
  • Vending machines
  • Handrails
  • Poles
  • Turnstiles
  • Buttons

Infectious germs can survive on surfaces for hours or even days, depending on the type of surface. If you touch a contaminated surface and then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes, you may become infected. This type of transmission is less common than inhalation, but it’s still a potential risk.

3. Carry hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol

If you must touch a surface, sanitize your hands afterwards. Use enough to get your hands wet all over, and rub until the sanitizer is dry. Learn more about when and how to use hand sanitizer properly here.

4. Practice social distancing—as best as you can

Many public transportation companies are limiting the number of passengers on their buses and trains. However, if your city is not limiting passengers, there are things you can do to mitigate the risk of crowding.

For starters, travel during non-peak hours if at all possible. If you are traveling to work, go early if you can to beat the morning commuter rush. When boarding a bus or train, move to less crowded areas or train cars. If a bus or train appears dangerously crowded, consider waiting for the next one, if you’re able.

Additionally, check for signs or floor decals that aid social distancing. Many places have added arrows to guide one-way foot traffic, or stickers to help people stay 6 feet apart.

5. Wash your hands afterwards

When you arrive at your destination, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Unfortunately, hand sanitizer isn’t a perfect solution. It helps to eliminate germs, but not as effectively as soap and water. For this reason, it’s best to do a full handwashing as soon as you can. (Psst … check out these handwashing mistakes you might be making.)

Remember, your actions on public transit don’t just affect you. They help protect your fellow passengers as well, so commute with compassion.