Are crowded mass transit systems spreading disease?

Ridership of buses and subways has dropped way down in response to the current shutdowns, but many buses and trains are still overcrowded and do not allow adequate space between passengers. The reason for overcrowding appears to be the mass transit systems have cut back the numbers of trains and buses to save money in response the lower ridership.

Here is a recent story from New York about overcrowding there:

A similar problem exists in San Francisco:

Philadelphia has made changes to reduce overcrowding and to protect drivers:

If the cities are unwilling or unable to operate mass transit safely should the federal government shut down the systems?

In places like NYC healthcare workers use the subway to get to work. Do you really think it would be a good idea to shut down the subway?

Yes, some people need to get to work. The problem is that officials have cut back service to reduced cost, which has created overcrowding.

The solution maybe to increase service and refuse to allow more passengers on if a train gets overcrowded.

Of course there is another way to reduce overcrowding on subways:

Shutting Down subway and bus service makes more sense than closing retail to prevent the spread.

A soluton may be to reserve mass transit for critical workers only or house those workers in neaby dorms or hotels.

That is what we did in PGH.


At this time I wouldn’t want any health care worker that took a crowded subway within 50 feet of me.

There’s a reason NY and New Jersey’s numbers keep going up. Crowded mass transit probably plays a role.


The issue is there are a lot of non-essential workers in a city of 20 million people.

So the MTA, in making a business decision, helped cause this issue.

The solution is to run more trains and limit ridership on each train.

1 Like

Good thing for you that you don’t live in NYC. If you did you wouldn’t have much choice in who cares for you should you end up in a hospital.

I haven’t heard of any evidence that mass transit systems spread the virus any more than any other way. I have however heard of it demonstrably being spread at parties and funerals.

Also, not all hospitals are located near hotels or dorms. Transit is necessary for essential workers.

This is a purely ideological obstacle to preventing the spread of the disease. The local governments should immediately extend credit to these operators so they don’t have to cut back on services in the middle of a pandemic.

I do not understand why local governments are trying to pinch pennies right now. They will be compensated when we survive this so they should stop being so cheap.

I didn’t say it spread it more. Large closely packed gatherings. It doesn’t matter what the scenario is or who has to take what. That’s how it spreads.

I’ll tell this this much. If given a choice, I’d attend an outdoor party long before I rode a packed subway car.

1 Like

I agree that the issue of crowded mass transit has generally been ignored, especially in the national media. That does not mean it is not a problem.

For example here are reports of the high rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths among transit drivers in New York and Philadelphia:

The second article notes the extraordinary high death rate for MTA transit workers:
But transit workers continue to die from Covid-19. They’ve died at three times the combined rate of the city’s police and fire departments, which employ first responders like EMS workers.

41 New York transit workers have died as of April 8.

Mass transit doesn’t spread disease. People do.


Yes, mass transit systems do not spread disease. People crowded into mass transit systems during an epidemic do.

The NY Daily News article also notes that until recently the CDC did not recommend face masks for the general public, but it changed that recommendation.

How many people have been infected because someone sneezed on a crowded train or bus without wearing a mask?

As does a population density of 26,000 people per square mile.

Of course “mass” transit spreads respiratory infections. Pretty much anything “mass” does.


But it’s excused. But damn those parties and those selfish bums that put everyone at risk by going to the beach. I realize one isn’t essential. But both accomplish the same thing everyone is trying to prevent. But hey, it’s perfectly ok for a health care worker to ride a crowded subway on their way to work at an assisted living facility. You know, the places that are locked down not allowing anyone to visit.

1 Like

So long as there are no illegal religious services on the crowded train or bus, everything is just fine.

1 Like

Should be the first place to require masks.

Schools are big problem in spreading diseases.

the train to utopia… all aboard…

Yes. From what I understand, the primary benefit of wearing a mask is to reduce the risk to other people.

Masks reduce the spread of germs from coughs or sneezes. I have seen no evidence that they actually protect the wearer much from germs in the air.

Requiring face masks to ride buses or subways is a good first step.

1 Like