Governments around the world are responding to an outbreak of COVID-19, or Coronavirus, a new respiratory disease that has spread to multiple countries, including Canada. The Canadian transit industry has learned a lot about managing a pandemic-type crisis since SARS and H1N1 – two past global viruses – and how important it is to communicate to staff and customers early, openly and frequently. It’s important to work with public health officials to keep up-to-date as the situation evolves. Many systems are using their passenger display screens to remind people of the best ways to prevent transmission, sometimes co-branded with offices of public health.
As the situation develops rapidly, CUTA is stepping in to provide our members with context and information on COVID-19 management. The resources below provide guidance on best practices for public transit operators during a pandemic.
Do you have any resources or information to contribute? Please submit any relevant documents using this Dropbox link. Help us support the Canadian transit industry during this difficult time by sharing your best practices and resources.
Steps to ensure business continuity for public transit systems
The International Association of Public Transport (UITP) has prepared the following guidance for public transit operators operating in the context of COVID-19.
Public transport systems are considered a high-risk environment in the context of COVID-19 due to:
- high number of people in a confined space with limited ventilation;
- no access control to identify potentially sick persons;
- a variety of common surfaces to touch (ticket machines, handrails, door knobs, etc.).
Public transport is an essential service to provide mobility, also in times of pandemics, not least to provide access to health care facilities. Shutting down public transport would constitute an extreme measure to be taken by the authorities in the framework of a wider crisis management plan. The key objective for public transport operators therefore has to be maintaining the operation. Consequently, public transport operators should focus their pandemic plan efforts on staff, trying to protect them and preparing to deal with absenteeism.
The most important recommendation is to follow the guidance of the competent authorities at all times and to scale up measures according to the risk level.
The recommendations on preparedness are suitable for all public transport networks, regardless of the level of threat currently faced.
- It is crucial to have identified essential functions within the organization and provide separate facilities for them if needed;
- It is advisable to develop an inventory of staff qualifications, licenses, etc. in order to identify employees, who could act as back up for critical positions. As many professional licenses are expiring without regular practice or re-examination, it is also important to check their validity and renew them if needed;
- Review the stock and availability of essential protection and cleaning equipment and supplies and plan their distribution and refill;
- Review stock and supply chains for operational material, such as fuel, lubricants or spare parts and investigate alternative suppliers if possible;
- Staff information is a key element of communication planning and reassurance is needed, as a major disease outbreak will be a key topic within media and public discussion. It is considered a useful tool to develop a basic “questions and answers” section for the internal websites providing basic information for employees about the outbreak, its impact on the public transport systems and measures being taken;
- Follow related communications of the responsible authorities to stay informed on latest advise for your country or region.
Personal protection measures are suitable for all public transport networks regardless of risk level. Note that it may be useful to be seen to increase personal protection and hygiene measures to reassure both staff and passengers even if the risk is considered very low.
- Staff wash and dressing rooms, meeting rooms and offices should be equipped with hand disinfectants and paper tissues;
- The effect of respiratory masks is debated. Public transport operators should obtain local and/or national advice on the use of masks and recommended types of masks. General advice of the WHO is to wear masks when tending to an infected or potentially infected person;
- Cleaning routines may have to be adapted and increased focus should be put on disinfecting common surfaces and spots to touch as well as waste disposal. For working places, where no cleaning may be possible between shifts, employees should be equipped with the necessary means and be made responsible to remove any waste and disinfect surfaces before taking over as part of the routine;
- Staff that has to tend sick travelers, clean body fluids or potentially contaminated items and surfaces, should wear disposable gloves.
Reduction of contact
Reduction of contact measures are recommended if the risk level is high, for example confirmed outbreak in the area or a decision by the competent authorities.
- Customer service staff should only be available in information booths or desks with sufficient distance to passengers;
- Rear door boarding may temporarily replace the front door access of buses, in order to protect drivers that have no separate cabins;
- The need for ticket inspection during an outbreak should be challenged. Ticket inspectors would be exposed to a very high risk of getting infected, whilst they may be valuable back-up staff for other critical positions;
- Remote working should be considered for activities that could be carried out without physically being present in company premises. The stimulation of home working might further contribute to reducing contact and might allow working for employees, who have to take care of relatives at home but are not sick;
- Replacing meetings by telephone conferences should reduce contact between employees, the closing of canteens may be considered.
Reduced service measures may be required if the risk level is high, for example a confirmed outbreak in the area or a decision by the competent authorities.
- Operators have good experiences with the adoption of the weekend timetable as passengers are used to it and necessary announcements are already prepared, thus the service amendment might cause the minimal confusion;
- Maintenance routines for equipment and rolling stock should be reviewed in order to identify the potential for advancing or delaying inspections;
- Operators should seek contact with local authorities to align crisis plans as an epidemic might lead to limited availabilities on their side.
Support for the transit industry
As CUTA members continue to grapple with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, and as transit systems strive to maintain operations during challenging times, the association has developed a series of asks of the federal government to provide emergency funding to keep front-line services running for essential workers.
In a letter sent to the federal government on Monday, March 30, CUTA urged the federal government to work with the provinces and territories to:
- Provide $400 million per month in funding to replace lost farebox revenues for transit systems, and urgently look to support transit systems that have lost non-farebox revenues.
- Provide access to up to $1.2 billion in emergency relief funding for transit systems that will face liquidity challenges in the coming weeks and months.
- Place transit systems on the priority list for procurement of cleaning agents, disinfectants and PPE equipment for operators, and reimburse transit systems for the costs of these unforeseen expenses once the pandemic is over.
- Make strategic investments in transit infrastructure to support the jobs, R&D spending and supply chains that will underpin the post-pandemic recovery. In this regard, approve all pending ICIP projects without delay, provide extensions to the PTIF phase 1 deadline for project proponents, and lock-in the permanent transit fund with proposed annual investments of up to $3.4 billion per year and consider bringing the launch of this fund forward.
CUTA is working with the federal government to raise awareness of our industry’s plight and is contacting provincial and territorial governments to ensure we gain access to the funding support we need to keep this vital service running for Canadian communities.
COVID-19: Federal government stimulus
Since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government has taken measures to contain the virus and flatten the curve. While these measures are critical for Canadians, the economic strain and impact on families, small and medium businesses is noticeable. As a result, the government of Canada has taken steps to address these ongoing issues by announcing several stimulus packages. CUTA has been tracking these announcements as they relate to COVID-19.
COVID-19 federal government stimulus announcements:
- $10 billion business credit line, plans to roll out stimulus package as COVID-19 spreads – Minister of Finance Bill Morneau, March 13, 2020
- $82 billion in support for Canadians and support for business – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Finance Bill Morneau, March 18, 2020
- Support for small businesses as part of the Canadian government’s $107 billion COVID-19 Economic Response Plan – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, March 27, 2020
- $2 billion for medical supplies to fight against COVID-19 – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, March 31, 2020
COVID-19 LinkedIn resource group
To support the sharing of information, CUTA has created a LinkedIn group to disseminate best practices, understand how other systems are facing these challenges and identify successful measures to protect transit riders and operators.
We encourage you to share your knowledge and experiences with fellow CUTA members using this platform. Together, we’ll ensure public transit continues to keep our communities moving.
This group is intended for Transit System Members only.
COVID-19: Social media toolkit
To support our ask of the federal government, CUTA has developed social media posts that can be shared by CUTA members. Supporting our messaging through social media is a great way to increase the visibility of our ask with the federal government, and we encourage all CUTA members to take advantage of the proposed tweets below. Help us help transit.
Upcoming CUTA meetings
The following recurring CUTA meetings are only open to transit system members.
If you would like to attend for one of the below meetings, please email Winnie Tong to request a registration link.
COVID-19: Urban rail stakeholders meeting – April 6, 2020
COVID-19: Bus stakeholders meeting – April 7, 2020
COVID-19: Specialized transit meeting – April 8, 2020
Resources for public transit
- Upcoming webinar: Public transit in the time of COVID-19 - Swiftly & Transit, April 8, 2020
- COVID-19: Transportation Response Center - NACTO, April, 2020
- Guidance on Essential Services and Functions in Canada During the COVID-19 Pandemic - April, 2020
- Webinar replay: Rostering the smart way: How to maximize your time, cut costs, & keep your drivers happy - Optibus, March, 2020
- COVID-19 transit operations: Public transit responses to Coronavirus situation - WSP, March, 2020
- Trapeze Helps: Managing through COVID-19 - Trapeze, March 2020
- COVID-19 Global Labor and Employee Tracker - Dentons, March, 2020
- Washbots Canada capabilities in response to COVID-19 - Washbots, March 2020
- Tips to implement contingency plans - GIRO, March, 2020
- Public transport authorities and COVID-19: Responses from the front line - UITP, March, 2020
- How coronavirus is disrupting public transit - Transit, March, 2020
- Resources for transit agencies responding to coronavirus - Transit, March, 2020
- Solution de Transport à la Demande en situation d’urgence (French only) - CityWay, March, 2020
- Helping Transit Agencies Prepare for COVID-19 With No-Cost Contingency Plans - Optibus, March 12, 2020
- Summary: A Guide for Public Transportation Pandemic Planning and Response – APTA, March 2020
- Public Transit Response to Coronavirus or COVID-19 – APTA, March 2020
- Management of COVID-19: Guidelines for Public Transport Operators – UITP, February 2020
- COVID-19: Pandemic Preparedness for Business - Canadian Chamber of Commerce
- Calling all suppliers – Help Canada combat Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) - Public Works and Government Services Canada
- Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Outbreak updates - Public Health Agency of Canada
- National Emergency Strategic Stockpile - Public Health Agency of Canada
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