The Caltrain Board of Directors voted to endorse the Bay Area Healthy Transit Plan at its September meeting. The regional transit plan outlines best practices for frequent cleaning, personal protective equipment, face coverings, physical distancing, ventilation, and touchless fares in order to ensure that public transit is safe for all Bay Area residents and transit employees.
As riders return to public transportation, surveys show that passengers want assurance that steps have been taken to make that ride as safe as possible. To provide that assurance, transit agencies from throughout the Bay Area have agreed upon common commitments based on the industry’s best health-related practices to strengthen trust in riding public transportation. The plan was crafted using guidance and best practices from the California Department of Public Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, as well as other transit agencies from around the world.
The plan calls for improving the operation and maintenance of transit agencies, as well as encouraging safer behaviors among riders. Riders are expected to wear face coverings, practice physical distancing and hand washing, and minimize verbal activities that could help to spread COVID-19, and the use of a Clipper card or mobile apps for touchless payment. Additionally, it recommends expanded cleaning and disinfecting practices, as well as maximizing fresh air on board. Caltrain has the advantage of being an open air system that utilizes hospital-grade air filters in all passenger cars, and has already required that touchpoints are sanitized throughout the day and spray foggers used on all cars overnight and midday.
Protecting transit employees is another fundamental goal of the plan. Agencies are advised to develop a wellness assessment protocol for employees, provide adequate personal protection equipment (PPE), encourage physical distancing, give access to testing and develop a contact tracing policy in case of employees testing positive. Caltrain had already implemented these policies earlier in the pandemic.
“It has never been more critical for our respective agencies to come together and collaborate with a common goal of preserving safe, reliable public transit for those who need it most,” said Caltrain Executive Director Jim Hartnett. “While COVID-19 presents much uncertainty, it remains a constant that the regional economy cannot sustainably rely solely on single-occupancy vehicles.”
This plan sets a baseline of best practices for transit agencies, and does not preclude agencies from implementing additional practices if they are deemed necessary. As new information becomes available, the plan will evolve and adapt to ensure that better practices are adopted as they are discovered.
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission formed a 30-member Blue Ribbon Transit Recovery Task Force that has worked with the Bay Area’s local public transit agencies to develop the Healthy Transit Plan. Agency collaboration included, large, small, and multimodal providers. Additionally, transit providers engaged with and received insightful input from paratransit partners, county health officials and labor representatives to create the plan.
About Caltrain: Owned and operated by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, Caltrain provides commuter rail service from San Francisco to San Jose, with commute service to Gilroy. Caltrain enjoyed five years of consecutive monthly ridership increases, surpassing more than 65,000 average weekday riders. While the Joint Powers Board assumed operating responsibilities for the service in 1992, the railroad celebrated 150 years of continuous passenger service in 2014. Planning for the next 150 years of Peninsula rail service, Caltrain is on pace to electrify the corridor, reduce diesel emissions by 97 percent by 2040 and add more service to more stations.
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