Transit Aware

Issue 15

HTG – Robert T Babbitt PLLC

Article 1


University of Pittsburgh scientists announce they have isolated the biomolecule that completely neutralizes the virus that causes Covid-19.

The preliminary tests involved the component that is ten times smaller than the full-sized antibodies. It has been used in the creation of the drug Ab8. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is a backer of the new company Abound Bio.

The early tests are encouraging but have not yet been proven in humans.

Dr. John Mellors summarized the importance of this breakthrough: “When we give a vaccine, we induce lots of different antibodies of different potencies. Here, with this antibody, we’re giving a uniform, potent biomolecule that’s sole function is to block the virus.”

Clinical trials will begin for Ab8 in early 2021. Success at these steps could lead to Food and Drug Administration approval. If mice and hamsters are a valuable test, the negative side effects will be few and the blocking of the virus and elimination of the virus will be accomplished.

It could become the first treatment that is effective to both prevent and cure the virus.

For more details see:  15 September 2020

Article 2


One of the most frustrating tragedies in any transit system is a pedestrian accident that ends in fatal injuries. Transit Aware wants to be certain you are aware of the unique risks for pedestrians.

It is not possible to prevent every accident. But the need to protect pedestrians from our mistakes or their own errors is vital. Each year the prevalence of pedestrian looking at their cellphones while crossing an intersection appears to increase. It is hard to imagine that someone might not see a full-size transit vehicle. But that is the case when there is no attention to the surrounding traffic.

In busy central business districts, our vehicle turning movements create one type of risk. As we approach a pedestrian crossing during a left turn our operator must wait for the signal, but many “traffic” signals do not have stratified cycles for pedestrian crossings. Many allow pedestrian “safe” crossing signals while turning movements are in progress. That allows the dangers to increase that our operator will be blocked by a delivery truck or misinterpret if the pedestrian is waiting or moving.

An even more troubling risk is presented if that pedestrian is starting the crossing from behind our operator position to the left. If that is the case and the operator has not turned his or her torso it is not easy to see the pedestrian.

On right turns, the similar problems exist. But it is a simpler motion for the operator to turn and search to the right for a pedestrian if the window views allow the line of sight. As fareboxes have become larger with more added scanners and readers, it is possible that some operators might have a line of sight obstacle. The other line of sight issue that presents itself is the right front corner of the body assembly.

Of course, nothing replaces the care and attention of the operator. But while each of our systems continue to train and retrain operators, there are other strategies we can address.

Collision avoidance technology on buses give an advance warning to the operator when pedestrians or other items are close to the vehicle. Strobe lights on buses give a visual reminder to approaching pedestrians.

Right rear wheel safety guards prevent a fallen pedestrian from being a victim of wheel rollover. Think of these as guard rails under the bus.

Front brake lights are found on some buses. These added lights help take away the confusion if the pedestrian thinks the bus was stopping when that was not the case. And the oldest transit bus pedestrian friendly tool is the rear door interlock. Our maintenance teams must keep the interlock systems in normal operation.

Our system planners can prevent pedestrian accidents through bus stop location, design, and safety treatments. Sight lines on curves and hills can create pedestrian crossing hazards. Passenger stops at logical spots for the passenger must also consider if the stop will block the driveway of homes or businesses or create a routine temptation for jaywalking. And even if the transit system cannot control the sidewalk ADA accessibility, preparing an inventory of each stop is often the first step to solving the problem.

Article 3


There is daily news regarding the frontrunner vaccine candidate products. Last week AstraZeneca paused the Phase 3 Trial for investigation of a neurological problem.

The three important details released this week include a sweeping plan to make vaccines for the novel coronavirus free for all Americans. The Center for Disease Control also announced that they expect that an Emergency Use Authorization by the Food and Drug Administration will proceed the full formal approval for the vaccine(s). The third item was the logistics plan for a variety of United States distribution sites to receive the vials within twenty-four hours of the Food and Drug Administration approval or EUA.

Medical supply company McKesson is the main source of the distribution process. CDC Director Robert Redfield explained that the first vaccines would be made available to those in greatest need including health care workers. As larger quantities are shipped, the CDC will have two objectives: provide widespread access to the vaccine and ensure to the greatest degree possible those with risk factors and the general public have a high rate of uptake.

These objectives follow the criteria presented by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The four phases that are described in that draft report include:

  1. Health care workers, Seniors and those with underlying risk conditions
  2. Essential workers and those in prisons and homeless shelters
  3. Children and young adults
  4. General population

 For more details see: 16 Sep 2020

Article 4


Reporters around the country have focused on two transit ridership trends. First, the essential trips taken on transit were vital to hospital staffs and other critical community resources. Second, the impact of social distancing and remote work has decimated transit ridership.

It is important to review the data, as opposed to opinions. The most timely national ridership data available is the American Public Transportation Association Ridership Report for Q2 2020. Comparing April 2020 to April 2019, the reported ridership totals by mode were:

              Heavy Rail                       down 91%

              Light Rail                          down 78%

              Commuter Rail                down 93%

              Bus – Large city               down 74%

              Bus – Medium city          down 64%

              Bus – Smaller city           down 76%

              Bus – Smallest city          down 89%

Those numbers certainly reflect the shutdown of may parts of our physical interaction economy in April. The gradual reopening of the economy and the careful actions of our transit systems are gradually restoring ridership. In June 2020 compared to June 2019, the reported ridership totals by mode were:

              Heavy Rail                       down 82%

              Light Rail                          down 70%

              Commuter Rail                down 85%

              Bus – Large city               down 56%

              Bus – Medium city          down 50%

              Bus – Smaller city           down 56%

              Bus – Smallest city           down 67%

Comparisons of these months rate of change in ridership show interesting trends. In the rail segments of the market, Heavy rail and Commuter rail were hit the hardest, but indicate 9% and 8% improvements. Light rail indicates the similar 8% improvement but never went as low, reaching “bottom” at 78% down and returning to 70% down. The New York shutdown certainly impacted the Heavy rail and Commuter rail categories.

The four bus markets also indicate interesting trends. Large city bus ridership was an 18% improvement in the June v April data; Medium cities indicated an improvement of 14%; Smaller cities experienced a 20% improvement; and the Smallest cities had a 22% improvement. The Bus Total change was down 73% in April but down only 55% in June, and improvement of 18%.

Many reporters have mentioned the shift to automobiles by previous Commuter rail passengers. This is likely to improve quite slowly until therapeutics and vaccines are proven to be highly effective.

Almost half of the bus riders have returned in three of the four size categories. You would not know this by reading the USA Today or other national papers. There are many factors interacting currently. Many bus transit systems eliminated fares and restricted boarding to rear doors to minimize risk to operators. Many systems also restricted service due to low ridership. Those systems are adding service now.

It is difficult to assess the impacts of these change on ridership totals during this unprecedented challenge. Many large central business districts in the country have much less activity today than these did in February.

It seems likely that the next few months will witness consistent progress in transit ridership, but the pace of the return will be uncertain.

For more details see: APTA 2020-Q2-Ridership Report


The Greater Washington Partnership understands that social distancing on transit is important and difficult to attain. With this tool riders can find the least crowded times and lines and stations.

Employers and employees have expressed concerns over the behaviors of others on the system. The system is currently not crowded for most trips. The information on the app presents the tracker information for several larger transit systems in the region. It provides information on loads by time and direction for all lines.

There are some bus trips that are causing concerns since it is more difficult to spread out on board the bus. The current guidelines for use are limited to ten passengers on board. But there are multiple trips per day that find more riders at stops than that limited capacity can serve quickly.

The information is free and the information is updated frequently.

For more details see: 16 September 2020

Article 6


More than one hundred transit systems have already joined the national commitment program. The message is clear: transit remains a safe means of travel, though several things have changed.

The program centers on four elements:

  1. Following Public Health Guidance
  2. Requiring customers and employees to AVOID using transit when ill with Covid-19
  3. Cleaning and disinfecting transit vehicles, benches and shelters and enforcing facial coverings
  4. Keeping customers informed of the changing requirements as we return to “normal”

Each transit system member of APTA that commits to the program will display a “seal” on their vehicles that brand the program and remind the public of the commitments embodied in the program.

APTA adopted the program through the efforts of the Mobility Recovery and Restoration Task Force. Los Angeles Metro led this effort. Chair Phil Washington explained that the local outreach effort to customers quickly focused on the need to help riders return to transit with confidence in their safety and that of the families.  This effort also is of great benefit to the essential workers who operate, clean and maintain transit fleets.

For more details see:  10 September 2020

Weekly Updates: Issue 15, Week of September 13-20, COVID 19, ANOTHER POTENTIAL REMEDY BECOMES NEWSWORTHY

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