In addition to the obvious precautions, there are other things to keep in mind to avoid catching or spreading the coronavirus
In the london underground, the smartest passengers know some secrets to get to their destination faster.
In the tunnels located between the platforms of the stations, for example, there are routes that are not marked and that offer shortcuts.
And if you choose certain wagons, they will take you exactly to the point where it is exited on the platform so that you can get off the ground before the rest.
Navigate public transportation during the pandemic, however, it is something that not even the most experienced passengers have had to do before.
Getting from one place to another quickly now seems much less important than doing it safely.
How can the risks be reduced?
There are, of course, a few essentials: wear a maskTry to avoid the busiest hours and follow the guidelines of physical distancing.
Following public health advice is the most important thing and this will reduce your risk significantly.
But there are other less obvious measures that are worth knowing.
The analysis of transport research and passenger psychology can offer some clues, in addition to indicating the changes that we must carry out in the coming months.
Ventilation and airflow issues
With a disease like COVID-19, the more people breathe, cough, or talk in the same space with confidence, the greater the chance that they will become infected.
Your best option, if you can, is to opt for the bicycle, walking or a scooter, since this you can keep your distance from others.
Cars are obviously safe too, as long as you travel with people who live in your house. But if we all drive this will lead to the “tragedy of the commons” effect of higher traffic and higher environmental cost, so it is difficult to recommend it as a socially responsible alternative.
“Cars are very inefficient when using urban infrastructure. If we all move around by car, nobody moves, ”says Carlo Ratti, director of the Senseable City Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
If you travel by train, bus or tube, one factor to consider when planning your route is how it is ventilated, explains Nick Tyler, a transport researcher at the University of London, who has modeled how the virus spreads in the buses.
“Outside in the open air, the droplets dissipate into the air and the wind,” he says. “Once they are inside, andThey have less movement ”.
The designs differ but the more windows the better. For this reason, a subway is more difficult to ventilate than a train or bus on the surface.
According to a 2018 study by Lara Gosce of the University of London, people who used the British capital’s subway regularly were more likely to experience flu symptoms than those who did not.
In general, the ventilation systems of public land transport are less effective than those of airplanes.
Air in aircraft is redistributed through sophisticated HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Collector) filters at a certain frequency, which should block most viral particles.
“Aircraft ventilation is highly criticized in many ways. It’s actually one of the best systems we can find, ”says Tyler.
And unlike many trains and buses, the airflow travels directly from the ceiling to the floor. This means that the droplets are pushed to the floor, away from the hands and faces, more quickly.
A subway car in New York, by contrast, pushes the air horizontally, and uses filters with lower performance than airplanes, classified with seven on a scale of 20 in terms of efficiency.
Science is gold
When you analyze your mode of transport, it is worth considering how much is spoken and at what volume.
Noisy environments, where people must bow down and shout to be heard, are at greater risk than quiet spaces.
This is thought to be one of the reasons why nightclubs, bars, or meat packing plants so experienced high levels of contagion.
Thus, a cacophony train car where singing sports fans travel will present more risk than a silent bus where passengers read their phones.
Where to sit
A much cited cartoon from the magazine New Yorker It says, “Never get on an empty wagon.” Which implies that you would not like to discover why everyone has avoided getting on that car, for example, because of a bad smell, or, in the worst case, because there you could be mugged.
That advice is still valid, for example if you are a woman and you travel at night. But in the pandemic, avoiding crowds of other passengers is the wisest thing to do, if you can do it.
In addition to encouraging the use of masks, many transportation authorities have introduced signs and advertisements to remind people to keep their physical distance when sitting down, but what else do you need to know about which seats to choose or avoid?
A recent study in China looked at how close proximity to seats in trains affects transmission risk.
By tracking the travel and seating locations of more than 2,000 people who had the virus on China’s high-speed train network, between December 2019 and March 2020, they were able to see the virus moving between people.
Sit in the same row, especially an adjacent one, I had the highest risk in this particular scenario.
Apparently the backs between the rows on the type of train they studied, a high-speed intercity train, may have provided some kind of barrier.
People sitting in the same row on a commuter trip also needed to pass other passengers to go to the bathroom or get refreshments.
(It is important to note that the researchers did not rule out that transmission in the rows was higher because people sitting side by side were more likely to be family or friends and had close contact.)
Perhaps not surprisingly, longer trips increased risk, even for those sitting two rows away.
The researchers found that after two hours, a distance of minus 2.5 meters and without a mask was insufficient to prevent transmission.
Somewhat reassuring was the fact that sitting in the same seat as someone who had the coronavirus did not significantly increase the risk of getting infected.
Where to stand
A study of subway passenger behavior in New York City suggests that people who ride standing are more likely to hold onto vertical posts than other handholds, such as straps or spring straps.
Although the virus is thought to be transmitted primarily by the fine spray of aerosols and droplets that we produce when we speak, breathe, or cough, it can also spread when we touch surfaces that are contaminated with the virus and then we put our fingers to our mouth or nose.
The researchers also found that New Yorkers who choose to stand in the carriages are more likely to stay close to the doors, due to the proximity of the exit, the divisions for recharging, or the opportunity to avoid eye contact with seated passengers.
So stay close to the gates can have benefits mixed. It is perhaps one of the best ventilated spaces, but it is also the most congested.
It was found that men are more likely to stand still than women when wagons start to get congested.
Perhaps it is due to the old social politeness or perhaps men prefer to stand.
But if you consider that studies show that men wash their hands less often than women, you might conclude that it is better not to share a pole with a man who may have dirty palms.
What is unknown
Although regular travel by public transport involves changes in risk for people, for now it is not known how much.
There is some reason for optimism, as Christina Goldbaum recently reported in The New York Times: Contact tracing in Japan, France and Austria found no links between the outbreaks and public transportation networks.
Some mathematical models also suggest that well-ventilated public transport with the use of masks presents less risk than other indoor environments, such as a crowded and poorly ventilated bar.
Short-distance travel, ventilation, and staying quiet may also help. But more evidence is needed.
What is clear is that return tos shapes prepandemic won’t work, at least in the near future.
Buses in London, for example, have their capacity capped at 30%, so for every passenger returning to the office now, you will need 2 or 3 more buses at rush hour to maintain social distancing, or people will face delays.
And even when arriving at his office, a worker in a skyscraper will have to wait longer in training to enter a social distancing elevator, says Tyler.
Perhaps we should see this as an opportunity to rethink transportation.
“During times of change it is important to allow experimentation in cities,” says Ratti.
“The ability to test something, see if it works and transform the city is something that we should keep in the post-covid-19 world.”
So while there are ways to reduce your risk on public transportation in the short term, a more important question to ask ourselves is whether it’s time to reexamine how to get from one place to another.
What will it be like to commute in a city after a year or two of focusing on safety and not capacity or speed?
It is not known but, for now, the only thing we can do as passengers is hold on to what has been proven and hope that the future will lead us to a better place.
This note was originally published on BBC Future. click here if you want to read the original version (in English).