Transit Aware


Robert T Babbitt PLLC

Issue 17

Article 1             Covid-19 Protection – What is CASPR

CASPR is the acronym for a new disinfecting technology. Continuous Air and Surface Pathogen Reduction.

It recently emerged as one of the finalists from the Transit Tech Lab. The CASPR innovation is to use ambient air to create and spread a continuous low-level amount of hydrogen peroxide. This creates a significant reduction in microbial burden:

                           Fungi                  95.0%                 reduction

                           H1N1                  99.93%               reduction

                           MRSA                 99.98%               reduction

                           MS2                    99.993%               reduction

                           Bacteria              99.998%              reduction

                                                                                                             Tests by Microchem Laboratories

The tests for reduction of the virus that causes Covid-19 are not complete, but the expectation is that at least 99.0% reduction will be proven.

The key to this new solution is photocatalytic converter that reacts with the moisture in the ambient air to oxidize H2O molecules into H2O2 or hydrogen peroxide molecules.

The system is designed to be used in occupied spaces. Hospitals, of course, have been early adopters of this technology. The process uses a multiwavelength ultraviolet light installed in the HVAC unit to illuminate a honeycomb matrix. This small matrix is treated with a proprietary photocatalytic coating.

The process of ambient air that contains molecules of both water (H2O) and Oxygen (O2) being converted into safe yet effective amounts of Oxygen Ions (O2-), Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) and Hydroxyl Radical molecules (OH-).

The process does not create any Ozone (O3).

For more details on hydrogen peroxide and virus elimination see: April 2014

                                                                                  For CASPR see:

Article 2             CDC Clarifies Use of Facial Coverings on Transit

On Monday, 19 October 2020, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clarified the need to wear facial coverings while operating or riding in transit vehicles or airplanes. This warning notice also relates to the time a passenger spends in a station or airport.

The Centers for Disease Control called masks “…one of the most effective strategies available for reducing COVID-19 transmission.” In spite of the earlier controversy of proper messaging on this topic, the guidance is now definitive.

The announcement said that well-fitting facial coverings “…are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings. Wide use of masks especially helps protect those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 as well as workers who frequently come into close contact with other people (e.g., in airports, seaports or other docks, bus terminals and train stations).”

Many of our Texas transit systems already require facial coverings on board transit vehicles. Most airlines do as well. But it is helpful to have the support of the CDC in this important effort.

Another simple strategy is becoming widely accepted: Sign-in Kiosks with Temperature Measurement and Facial Recognition. There are several competitive products, but the common features are:

              Contactless temperature checks in less than three seconds

              On Screen Temperature Reading Display

              Email alerts for abnormal readings or failure to wear face covering

              RFID reader capability for check-in with fob or badge

              Optional Configurations –           Floor Stand


                                                                     Wall Mount

                                                                     Existing Surface Integration

The point at which an individual is experiencing a temperature is not the first day that they might transmit the virus. It remains challenging to find a protocol that alerts the individual to this exposure if they are asymptomatic or have delayed symptoms. Fever is only one of the several symptoms, yet it is one of the easiest to confirm objectively.

Article 3             Transit Elections and Referenda – Caltrain

Caltrain is the commuter rail service from San Francisco to San Jose. The ridership had grown significantly over the last decade. The electrification project was the next step in making the corridor capacity meet the growing demand. Then came Covid-19 and the shutdown of many offices and related worksites in the service area. Daily ridership in April 2019 was 67,728; in April 2020 it dropped to 1,547.

Against this dramatic backdrop, the solution for operating cost funding is soon to be decided at the ballot box.

Measure RR, if approved by the voters of the three counties, would provide 1/8th cent retail transactions and use tax for the Caltrain budget. This dedicated funding would prevent shutdown of the service. The $49 million in CARES Act funding is a lifeline that can support the system for months. The Measure RR funding, if approved, would generate $108 million annually.

This funding would be prioritized:

  1. Support and increase capacity of the operation
  2. Support the infrastructure projects of the capital program
  3. Expand access by riders of all income levels
  4. Leverage State and Federal fund sources for capital expansion

The measure requires a 2/3rd vote of the electorate. It already received a 2/3rd vote (or better) of the JPB Board of Directors.

It will be interesting to observe the results of the vote. The polling has been positive, but raising taxes, even small amounts, during a period of unusual economic activity has little precedent. The June, 2020 poll by EMC Research found 63% support the measure but 67% is required.

It is interesting that two of the opponents to the measure are the San Francisco Green Party and the San Francisco Republican Party. Eleven supporter groups have been clear in their arguments.

For details see:          26 October 2020

Article 4             Transit Elections and Referenda – Austin

The voters in Austin will determine the fate of a dramatic expansion of the services. Light rail lines, Bus Rapid Transit line, and commuter rail expansion would include a downtown subway. The final development plan would add $7.1 billion for these rail projects and expanded bus services.

The voters turned down previous efforts of expanded rail projects in 2014 and 2000. There are differences in the services offered. Perhaps the most important difference is the rapid growth of Austin and specifically high-rise developments in Austin.

The simple description of the growth in buildings development and eventual change in density of employment and population is the number of high-rise buildings on the horizon. As of February, there were 20 office towers and residential or hotel projects coming up. These projects ranged from 20 stories to 66 stories.

Another difference in this election compared to the 2014 and 2000 votes is the population and resulting congestion. The population in 2000 for the Austin MSA was 1.25 million; in 2010 it was 1.72 million; in 2014 it was approximately 1.90 million; and the latest available (2019) count is 2.23 million. This represents a 78% increase since 2000.

Put in a different prism, the population growth of the United States was 6.9% (2009-2019); The Texas rate of growth was 16.9% in that ten year period; and the rate of increase for the Austin MSA was 32.4% in that ten year period.

The current service area includes Austin and several smaller cities, the election is seeking approval to raise the property tax by 8.75 cents per $100 valuation. The ballot measure is only being considered within Austin city limits. The sales tax to transit of one cent will not be modified.  It is unique in the nation (at present) to seek this size increase in property tax for new transit, but it is also unique to have 20 high-rise buildings about to be added to the property tax base.

For more details see:    27 February 2020

Article 5             Transit Elections and Referenda – Gwinnett

The third large impact transit election that will reach a decision by the local voters on Tuesday is the 30-year increase of sales tax by one cent for expanded service in Gwinnett County, Georgia in the Atlanta region.

Gwinnett connects with MARTA in Atlanta by rail and by express bus service currently. The new services would include new high capacity bus services and extension of the MARTA Doraville line. The new services would bring 115,000 people to walking distance of high capacity transit services on quick frequencies. The 2019 plan had less high-capacity service and less local control.

The new sales tax, if approved, will generate $12.2 billion over 30 years. This new revenue stream will provide the rail extension, four Bus Rapid Transit lines, seven arterial Rapid Transit Lines and more than twenty local bus lines. Neighborhood services are increased through additional paratransit and flex-zone services.

This is the first area outside the MARTA three-county service area to ask the voters approval under the new ATL tax process. The $6.7 billion program of projects for the new expansion has been submitted to repeated rounds of public comment and the process was approved be presented to the voters after the county commissioners approved the item by a vote of 4 to 1.

For more details see:         Gwinnett Leaders Call for November Transit Vote

Article 6             Covid-19 and Soft Shields

While we all search for the best safe HVAC bus and train disinfecting process and fresh air flow solutions, it would be helpful if our customers knew that we were looking for additional solutions.

The school bus industry is learning to use the clear plastic barriers called “Soft Shield”. Each clear barrier is mounted to the seat back and to the ceiling and to the wall. The company claims benefits that include simple installation, ease of cleaning, ease of replacement, and moderate cost.

These light-weight flexible partitions achieve the same functions that the sneeze guards at convenience stores provide. The seating arrangement in school buses do not include perimeter seating, that is one of the differences with transit bus seating patterns. But it is hard to see many arguments trying these products in pilot projects as our passenger loads continue to approach pre-Covid19 levels.

For more details see: CDC guidance including Step 2: Maintain social distancing… as much as possible. Install physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions at staffed kiosks and on transit vehicles to the extent practicable. (CDC Interim Guidance – Resuming School and Day Camps)

Weekly Updates: Issue 17, November 1-15th COVID-19, Covid-19 Protection – What is CASPR

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