The COVID-19 threat is here for the foreseeable future. As cities reopen, protecting passengers on public transit is a matter of life and death.

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Cities will need to make some major changes to allow citizens can travel safely and efficiently post-lockdown, experts told Business Insider.
A handful of systemic transportation issues — like the sporadic reliability of public transit, the lack of safe bike lanes, gridlock in city centers, and unequal access to transportation options — have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
According to experts, some keys to a safe reopening include beefing up public transit systems, providing great alternatives like walking and biking, and managing congestion through tolls and other measures.
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As cities begin to reopen with the threat of COVID-19 still looming large, the challenge of how urbanites will get around in a safe and socially distant manner is a great one, and it’s bringing many deep-rooted transportation problems to the fore.

The Centers for Disease Control weighed in last month when it issued controversial guidance, which it has since walked back, urging commuters to drive to work alone while avoiding public transit and carpools. Urban planners, academics, and transportation officials swiftly panned the recommendation, arguing that a flood of new cars would cripple city streets and would be unwise from a public-health standpoint.

Traffic incidents already account for around 36,000 deaths per year in the US, and roughly 4.2 million people die annually from conditions related to air pollution around the globe. Car travel is, by some estimates, 20-60 times more deadly than public transit.

But the solution isn’t for commuters to unconditionally embrace mass transit either. Situations that straphangers faced daily — like crowding onto a packed bus or waiting elbow-to-elbow on a stuffy subway platform — now violate physical-distancing guidelines and could potentially put riders at risk.

Cycling could serve as an excellent alternative to public transit and driving in the long haul, and though many cities have designated additional bike lanes to accommodate increased ridership, they often lack the robust bike-lane networks needed to safely transport cyclists across a city.

None of these problems, however, are new. The threat of unmanageable and unsustainable congestion in city centers; the lack of reliable and uncrowded mass transit service; and insufficient alternatives are all deep-rooted problems that have only gained urgency as a still-raging pandemic stalks the public consciousness

Compounding all those issues is the reality that low-income communities and people of color — groups that have already been disproportionately affected by the pandemic — bear the brunt of these transportation shortcomings. Many low-income citizens hold essential jobs that don’t allow for remote work, meaning they have no choice but to commute one way or another, risking exposure. They also tend to have worse access to reliable public transit, along with fewer safe bike lanes nearby. Not to mention, they often lack the means to own a car, while having the farthest to travel.

Some urban-planning and transportation experts Business Insider spoke with see the current moment as an opportunity for cities …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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