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How to Stay Safer on Mass Transit


Keep your hands off the subway poles and rails to the ferry deck or onto the bus. Don’t touch the turnstile as you move through it; stay away from touch screens, keypads and elevator buttons. Make contactless payments if they’re offered, and skip the paper tickets.

Though surface contamination is not the main way people contract Covid-19, Dr. Benjamin nevertheless recommended washing your hands before departing on your journey and again upon reaching your destination, in addition to sanitizing frequently throughout. Think, too, about skipping the gloves, which can pick up germs on one surface and spread them to another.

Take note of the decals on the floor and signs you may see shepherding you through the station, an effort by some operators — like the Chicago Transit Authority — to reduce the number of people crossing paths and decrease crowding. Riders should be “spreading ourselves out still so we’re not packed in like sardines,” as Dr. Gershon put it, including spacing out along the subway platform.

If you’re driving onto the ferry, the Washington State Department of Transportation, which manages the largest ferry system in the United States, recommends remaining in your car for the duration of your trip. And if you’re boarding the bus, enter from the rear, to avoid shedding respiratory droplets on the driver and other passengers. Many bus systems, including those in Philadelphia and Minneapolis, have been encouraging passengers to enter from the back for that precise reason.

It might already be an unspoken norm on public transit, but it’s a good public health practice, too: Don’t eat onboard, as eating can carry particles from a surface to your face. “Once you’ve gotten into a public setting, no matter how well sanitized you are, we’re touching things,” Dr. Mohanraj said. “You’re risking putting whatever’s on your hand in contact with your mouth, your nose, your eyes.” Besides, you’d have to take off your mask.

Avoid extensive conversations, too; talking, and singing, sprays aerosolized droplets that can carry virus particles. In Tokyo, many riders were already accustomed to wearing masks and rarely talking; these practices became universal with the pandemic’s onset.

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