Robert T Babbitt PLLC

Issue 5, Article 1
May 30, 2020

It is clear that transit systems in our state have modified the cleaning processes to give more frequent attention to all commonly touched surfaces. In the search for the most effective routine, Ford has offered a simple solution. Do you need bleach, disinfecting sprays and wipes, when you have a strong vehicle heater?
Ford teamed up with Ohio State University. First the team proved that 15-minute sustained temperature of 132.8 degrees Fahrenheit reduced viral concentrations by more than 99 percent in the vehicles. Since a properly adjusted in-vehicle heater is capable of the heat and duration, why not adjust the vehicle capabilities with a software update?
The update has been tested. The software should be installed by a licensed Ford dealer. It is then activated by an eight-button sequence on the steering wheel or by connecting a laptop computer. This new Ford COVID 19 heater setting overrides the normal safety limit of the heater controls. The vehicle must be vacant when in the disinfecting process. The Ford software turns the speedometer into a countdown timer. When it displays zero, the process is complete.
Will this be a solution for transit fleets? It could become one of the tools that transit fleets use, after Ford tests the solution in larger vehicles. Together with disinfecting sprays and wipes, UVC lamps and changes to certain common touch surfaces, we can encourage social distancing, facial coverings, and symptom screenings along with these heating solutions. This could become part of the new normal for transit systems and their managers.
For more details see:

Issue 5, Article 2

South East Texas Transit is the rural transit provider that offers demand response service for healthcare, shopping, employment, education trips and more.
These services have been halted in reaction to the COVID 19 community response. In the announcement of transit service restoration for June 1, 2020, there were several preventive measures implemented in Orange County.
First, each passenger will have their temperature checked before boarding. Second, each passenger will complete a hand sanitization. Third, each passenger will wear a facial covering during boarding, during the trip and during deboarding.
Fares have not changed, but fare collection has. Each passenger will be required to purchase a ticket before boarding. No cash fares will be accepted.
These steps may not be practical for large city fixed route transit. These do seem to be effective modifications that mirror what the Center for Disease Control suggests for all retail re-openings: hand hygiene strategies, facial coverings, barrier shields and distancing, and requiring those infected to stay home.
For more details see:

Issue 5, Article 3

Reopening our transit systems include the vital bus route, but also includes the office, the vehicle servicing and the customer service function. In any reopening, the CDC and OSHA guidelines are valuable tools. First, a risk assessment is important to identify hazards, understand the risks and mitigate the risks. Second, it is important to inform employees who may have been on limited duty or furlough.
In office and similar settings, it is important to design in social distancing and explain the process to employees, vendors and guests. Virtual meetings will be important even as we open offices for workers. Explain to workers which meetings will be made in person and which will remain virtual. Design methods to identify and isolate those who become infected.
The next step is to build in features, as needed, to fight the defensive efforts against Covid 19. Consider adding high-efficiency air filtration, increase the outside air component of the ventilation system, install clear sneeze guard barriers where appropriate. For routine hygiene in this new environment consider greater access to soap and water sinks, provide hand sanitizers in more locations, add more tissue dispensers and evaluate all possible no-touch replacements for switches and openers.
Make sure each employee knows how often cleaning and disinfecting will occur. Include explanations of the duties the employees to clean their own workstations and equipment. Be clear as to the company expectations of operators and others for enforcement of the new rules.
Many transit systems are encouraging social distancing with 50% or less seating capacity. Houston Metro took the operator enforcement of allowable loading a step further by prompting the electronic head-signs to display the message that the bus is “Full” and to wait for the next bus.
And finally, examine the current management and workplace report structure. It is vital to improve the workplace and defend against the new risks. Accurate data on exposures, preventive measures and illness frequency are critical.
The keys to success in this period of returning to a sense of normal are: adapt, innovate, measure and communicate.
For details see:

Issue 5, Article 4

We want each of our transit systems to excel in this next phase that is full of new challenges. Our customer service representatives, supervisors and operators will face hundreds of questions each day about when my route will return to normal and how can we stay a safe distance from each other.
But one question is the most important. When a customer asks an operator: “Is it safe to ride again” our credibility and their safety will be on the line. This question is a difficult one.
Dr. Scott Weisenberg, an infectious disease specialist at NYU Langone, offered several important guidelines. Social distancing and facial coverings will be challenging on transit. At this point the decisions must be to modify the risk. If you are riding a subway for fifty minutes in a crowd, that is riskier than taking a subway ride of two stops or ten minutes.
The facial coverings are critical. Encouraging or requiring facial coverings can be vital. Avoiding people who do not have masks is best, staying six feet from them is next best. If you cannot do either, shorten your trip. Your health is more important than losing ten minutes waiting for another train.
Epidemiologist Stephen Morse offered this balanced reminder. The evidence at this point is that the most common form of transmission is from inhaling the tiny droplets. The distancing is important since the droplets eventually fall to the ground, but for a few feet the cough, sneeze, or loud speaking can create a projection of droplets for several feet. He also reminds that there is also some transmission by other mechanisms. The droplets almost invariably enter through the mouth, nose, or perhaps eyes, but the contact from hand touching an infected surface to the hand touching nose or mouth is also dangerous.
Even if you can be alert to those without masks, even if you can take short trips rather than long trips, even if you can wait for a surface bus or streetcar rather than a subway car, remember to wash or sanitize your hands the moment it is practical. This is a dangerous virus. It is not difficult to get rid of before it enters the host with the correct precautions.
Transit served the community well during the first phase of the pandemic. Essential workers needed transit trips that our systems served well. The ridership in many systems dropped by 90%. As the next levels of returning customers grow to 50% of the previous level and beyond, many eyes will be on the earliest results. Each system that carries large ridership levels without hotspot emergencies will make the return to a new normal more likely for all transit systems.
For more details see:

Issue 5, Article 5

Secretary Elizabeth Chao announced the United States Department of Transportation decision to provide 15.6 million cloth facial coverings for transportation workers. Transit and Passenger Rail workers will receive 4.8 million, Aviation workers will receive 3.8 million, Maritime, Freight Rail, Highway and Motor Carrier, and Pipeline workers will complete the distribution.
Secretary Chao reminded us that “…Transportation workers are on the frontlines of keeping our transportation systems operational during this public health emergency and their well-being and safety is paramount.”
The masks were secured by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and are being sent out through the United States Postal Service. FEMA had previously teamed up with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to distribute one million masks to truck drivers, highway patrol and inspection stations. The 36 distribution points for truckers were each located at Intestate highway rest areas, inspection sites and similar stopping points.
The Federal Highway Administration also gave states permission to allow food trucks at rest areas to deal with the challenging logistics that over-the-road truck operators were facing.
The American Public Transportation Association and many state and regional associations expressed thanks for this important safety measure. We would also like to thank Regional Administrator Gail Lyssy and the staff of FTA Region VI.

Weekly Update: Issue 5, Week of June 1-7, 2020: Disinfecting Solutions, Preventive Measures, Reopening Our Transit Systems, and more

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