Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on public transport

Red stickers placed every other seat in a Moscow Metro train encourage social distancing

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on public transport.

The use of public transport has also led to the spread of COVID-19.[1][2]


Disinfection of Tehran Metro trains against coronavirus
Ultra-violet lights are used to disinfect trains in Moscow, Russia


On 23 January 2020, the entire Wuhan Metro network was shut down, along with all other public transport in the city, including national railway and air travel, to halt the spread of the virus.[3][4][5][6]

On January 24, 2020, the day after the lockdown was declared in the city of Wuhan, the Beijing Subway began testing body temperature of passengers at the entry points of 55 subway stations including the three main railway stations and the capital airport.[7] Temperature checks were expanded to all subway stations by January 27.[8] To further control the spread of the virus, certain Line 6 trains were outfitted with smart surveillance cameras that can detect passengers who are not wearing masks.[9]

On 28 March 2020, six lines (Line 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7) resumed operation, after a two-month lockdown. Line 8, Line 11, and the Yangluo Line remain out of service.[10]

On 8 April 2020, Phase 1 of Line 8 resumed operation. Services on Phase 3 of Line 8, as well as Line 11 and the Yangluo Line, remain suspended.[11]


Various Indian states announced local and state level partial and incremental transport shutdown as early as March 11, 2020. India observed a complete lockdown including all trains, buses, airlines, cars, auto rickshaw for 14 hours on March 22, 2020. A nationwide complete lockdown for three weeks (21 days) was then announced, beginning midnight March 25, 2020.[12]


Restrictions have been implemented to public transport in Jakarta, Indonesia.[13]


In the Philippines, public transportation has been suspended in Luzon as part of the implementing measures of the enhanced community quarantine.[14]


On 20 March, free public transportation for people 65 years of age or older was temporarily suspended in Balıkesir, Konya and Malatya to encourage them to stay at home.[15] A day later, similar measures started to be imposed in Ankara, Antalya and İzmir.[16][17] On 24 March, it was announced that public transportation vehicles that work in and across the cities could fill up only 50% of their capacity with people at a time.[18]



Based on data released by Transit, France saw the largest decrease in use of public transport. This included a 92 percent decrease in Lyon and an 85 percent decrease in Nice.[19]

United KingdomEdit

Bus, plane and train services were reduced in the United Kingdom.[20]

North AmericaEdit


Based on data released by Transit, demand for public transport in Canada dropped an average of 83 percent in late March compared to previous years.[19] On March 17, the Edmonton Transit Service started using Saturday schedules for all of its routes 7 days a week.[21] On April 1, Calgary Transit also reduced service.[22] In Saskatoon, ridership had dropped by over 80 percent by March 30.[23]

Ridership on the Toronto Area's two largest transit agencies - specifically Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and GO Transit - had fallen 80 to 90 percent by April 13,[24] and both had reduced service and/or suspended routes. The TTC and GO Transit have suspended the ability for customers paying their fares with cash (or tokens in the case for TTC services) on their public transit buses until further notice. [25][26] On April 14, TransLink said they were losing C$75 million per month and would need emergency funding or be forced to cut large amounts of local services[27] In Montreal, the Metro reported an 80 percent drop in ridership by March 26. In the northern suburb of Laval, the STL had cut 45 percent of local bus service.[28]

United StatesEdit

Interior of a TriMet bus in Portland, Oregon, with the majority of the seats marked by "Don't sit here" signs to enforce physical distancing among riders
Schedule display at a bus stop with sticker alerting riders to temporary service reductions for COVID-19

According to Government Technology, "Steep declines in ridership during the crisis have pushed public transit systems across the U.S. into deep financial distress."[29] Kim Hart of Axios wrote, "Public transit systems across the country are experiencing a painful trifecta: Ridership has collapsed, funding streams are squeezed, and mass transit won't bounce back from the pandemic nearly as fast as other modes of transportation."[30]

In Detroit, DDOT bus services were cancelled after drivers refused to work.[31]

The Verge reported a 18.65 percent ridership decline on the New York City Subway system for March 11 compared to one year prior. New York City Bus ridership decreased 15 percent, Long Island Rail Road ridership decreased 31 percent, and Metro-North Railroad ridership decreased 48 percent.[32] Sound Transit, operating in the Seattle metropolitan area, saw a 25 percent decrease in ridership in February compared to January, and the city's ferry ridership saw a 15 percent decline on March 9 compared to one week prior.[32] These declines became much more pronounced in late March and April, as widespread closures of schools and businesses and 'shelter-in-place' orders began to be implemented. USA Today reported in mid-April that demand for transit service was down by an average of 75 percent nationwide, with figures of 85% in San Francisco and 60% in Philadelphia.[33] Ridership on the Washington Metro was down 95 percent in late April.[34]

On April 7, SEPTA asked Philadelphia transit users to wear face masks starting on April 9. On April 13, the agency said the rule would not be enforced.[35]

In order to prevent the spread of the virus on board buses and rail vehicles, some transit agencies have implemented temporary limits on the number of passengers allowed on a vehicle[36][37][33] and others have begun to require riders to wear face masks.[38][39] To reduce contact between drivers and passengers, several agencies have implemented rear-door-only boarding[34][40] and temporarily suspended the collection of fares,[33] examples including Seattle,[41] New York City buses,[42] and Denver.[40]


In California, Carson officials asked the Metro transit system to cease bus services in Los Angeles County.[43]

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) has reduced bus and Trolley services following ridership decreases.[44] A vote on MTS' proposal to expand public transit in San Diego may not be possible in 2020.[45]

Most services were shut down in San Francisco.[46]

New YorkEdit

Interim New York City Transit President Sarah Feinberg rides the subway, March 9

Beginning March 25, service on buses and subways was reduced due to decreased ridership during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City.[47][48] In April 2020, four City Council members requested that subway service be temporarily suspended due to the spread of COVID-19 in the subway system.[49] In late March, NYCTA Interim President Sarah Feinberg stated that a shutdown "feels misguided to me" and was "not on the table".[50] Feinberg also spoke in favor of hazard pay for front-line workers.[50] The following month, Feinberg called the MTA "the most aggressive transit agency in the country in acting quickly and decisively to protect our workforce."[51] Starting in May 2020, stations were closed overnight for cleaning; the overnight closures would be a temporary measure that would be suspended once the pandemic was over.[52]

By April 22, 2020, COVID-19 had killed 83 agency employees; the agency announced that their families would be eligible for $500,000 in death benefits.[53][50] By May 1, 98 transit workers had died.[54]

Spread of the coronavirusEdit

The use of public transportation during the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic has been implicated in spreading the disease; "researchers found that a bus passenger infected fellow travellers sitting 4.5 metres away".[1] A study published in the academic journal Practical Preventive Medicine found that "in a closed environment with air-conditioning, the transmission distance of the new coronavirus will exceed the commonly recognised safe distance."[1]

For some time, trams in Milan continued to function despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.[2] As the virus is spread from person to person, "one of the most common ways is through public and semi-private transport."[2]

In Israel, one rider who was a carrier of the coronavirus was apprehended "on a bus on its way to Jerusalem, on suspicion of deliberately spreading the disease."[55]


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External linksEdit