The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) announced on March 25th that it would be making some operational changes to help combat the spread of COVID-19. Most notably, some low-traffic routes and stations have been closed or given reduced schedules, while more buses have been diverted to high-traffic routes to prevent crowding and give passengers more space to distance from each other.
Except for passengers who need to use the access ramp at the front door, MARTA passengers must now enter and exit buses through the rear doors, minimizing contact with the driver. They will not be required to pay at the farebox, although bus fares will still be charged at the train stations for those passengers who are transferring.
Earlier in the pandemic, MARTA also promised to clean and sanitize all of its facilities and vehicles daily, and eliminated employee gatherings of more than 40 people.
Public Transportation Can Be a Breeding Ground for Respiratory Illness
Keeping public transportation clean and low-contact for those who must use it for essential trips and commutes is vital to protecting the entire population from COVID-19. Studies have shown that a person’s risk of infectious respiratory illness correlates closely with their use of public transportation, which is unsurprising, considering the way these diseases, including COVID-19, spread from person to person.
The easiest way to catch COVID-19 is to come into contact with someone who has it. Droplets of fluid expelled by an infected person during a cough or sneeze can easily end up in the eyes, nose, or lungs of another person across a distance of up to six feet, sometimes more. A train or bus is an ideal environment for this to happen, with people packed close together and breathing the same still, enclosed air.
Infection can also occur by touching something an infected person has touched, and then touching one’s own eyes, nose, or mouth. Trains and buses are full of surfaces that are touched by hundreds of people per day.
Thankfully, social distancing protocol has significantly reduced the number of people passing through MARTA facilities. On the first weekend of the pandemic, as people first began working from home and abstaining from recreational day trips, MARTA bus ridership dipped by somewhere between 10% and 20%. Estimates for the drop in train usage range from 25% to as much as 47%.
As people stay home, the chances of encountering an infected person on the train or bus are lower, but it’s still critical for MARTA to do its part to protect the remaining travelers and all those they come in contact with.
One Whistleblower Says MARTA Isn’t Doing Enough
According to one anonymous tipster, the MARTA buses still in service are more crowded than ever, making social distancing impossible, and the promised daily sanitation is not taking place. If this is true, MARTA could be putting thousands of people in danger. COVID-19 is a known, well-established threat to public safety, which means all businesses and organizations have a legal obligation to take all reasonable steps to protect people from it. Hopefully, MARTA will take these allegations seriously and do the right thing for its passengers, if it isn’t already. The Stoddard Firm will be ready to hold MARTA accountable for individuals who are injured or lose a loved one due to a crime or accident that occurs in a MARTA facility or vehicle.