At a virtual launch event on September 9, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) officially announced the “Health and Safety Commitments Program,” the public transportation industry’s overarching pledge to passengers that public transit systems are taking all the necessary measures to operate safely as the nation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
From the start of the pandemic, public transportation systems have worked tirelessly to keep riders safe from infection from the coronavirus. The health and safety of transit passengers is the most important priority for public transportation agencies. As of today’s launch, over 100 public transit systems have signed on to the APTA Health and Safety Commitments Program.
The Program was developed after asking transit users from across the country what measures would make them feel more confident riding public transportation amid concerns about COVID-19. From this research, the industry identified four key areas that transit systems need to address to earn riders’ confidence:
- Following public health guidelines from official sources
- Cleaning and disinfecting transit vehicles frequently and requiring face coverings and other protections
- Keeping passengers informed and empowered to choose the safest times and routes to ride
- Putting health first by requiring riders and employees to avoid public transit if they have been exposed to COVID-19 or feel ill
Transit systems throughout the nation have pledged to meet these commitments by creating specific policies that are effective for their system, their riders, and their communities. A key component of the Health and Safety Commitments Program is the shared responsibility of transit systems and riders to follow the guidelines. Riders rely on public transit systems to follow these commitments, and systems rely on riders to protect themselves and other customers.
“This program emphasizes the commitment that this industry is making to all those we serve now and to those who we look forward to serving,” said Nuria I. Fernandez, APTA Chair, and General Manager and CEO of Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. “Public transportation is and will be vital to the social and economic recovery of our nation. But getting there requires us to win back our ridership and encourage new riders to view public transit as a preferred mobility choice. We believe this commitment program will help do this.”
In announcing this new industry-wide pledge, the industry reiterated its urgent request that Congress and the Administration provide at least $32 billion in emergency funding to ensure that public transit services can continue to operate to serve essential front-line employees and to aid in the nation’s recovery.
“The program being launched today is the public transportation industry’s pledge to promote sensible policies and practices designed to keep transit users and transit employees safe during the COVID-19 crisis,” said APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas. “It is a logical extension of the innovation and commitment we have been demonstrating for the past several months – and it makes the need for at least $32 billion in additional emergency funding that much more urgent and critical.”
Fernandez and Skoutelas were joined by a panel of transit executives and members of APTA’s Mobility Recovery and Restoration Task Force during the launch event. Panelists discussed specific ways in which each agency can address the pillars of the program, and recognized that the Commitments Program is a process, not a one-time action.
“This commitment is much more than just words. We intend to put intent into practice as we work to come out from under this pandemic stronger than ever in our efforts to move people safely around Los Angeles County. But we can’t do it alone. It requires a partnership with our riders and a similar commitment to helping keep everyone safe and healthy as we work to get through this situation.” – Phil Washington, APTA Mobility Recovery and Restoration Task Force Chair, CEO, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Los Angeles, CA
“The quantitative and qualitative research commissioned as part of the APTA Mobility Recovery and Restoration Task Force reaffirms the steps that COTA and so many other transit agencies have taken to keep customers and employees safe. In developing this industry-wide commitments program, we are working to build back public confidence in riding transit by increasing sanitization practices, requiring masks for all customers and operators and working around the clock to keep our frontline essential employees healthy.” – Joanna M. Pinkerton, APTA Mobility Recovery and Restoration Task Force Co-Chair, President and CEO, Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA), Columbus, OH
“This program is about harnessing the collective energy, passion and resolve of 2,000 transit agencies and making a simple promise to the American people: that we will do all that we can, in all the ways that we can, to protect your health and safety while riding public transportation. It’s about ensuring that customers have the confidence to know that the agencies running our nation’s trains, buses and accessible vans have their health and wellbeing at the forefront of every decision we make.” – Paul J. Wiedefeld, General Manager and CEO, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Washington, DC
“I am pleased that APTA gathered all the best practices from across its membership to come up with a worldclass commitment program to ensure that all agencies across the U.S. commit to protecting the health and safety of the travelling public and their employees.” – Mario Péloquin, Chief Operating Officer, New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), New York City, NY
“The CAT management team, board members, local elected community partners and I are determined to do all we can to stop the spread of Covid-19 in our agency and community. We are proud to sign on to APTA’s Health and Safety Commitments program and display the seal of commitment. It means we are fulfilling the highest industry commitments for keeping public transit safe during this pandemic.” – Bacarra S. Mauldin, Chief Executive Officer, Chatham Area Transit (CAT), Savannah, GA
“Just as APTA’s Health and Safety Commitments Program states, we ARE all in this together: transit agencies, manufacturers, planners, engineers, state and local governments, community organizations and our customers. We need to work together to reimagine transit with new technologies and new products aimed at customer convenience and system resiliency.” – Kim Slaughter, APTA Mobility Recovery and Restoration Task Force Co-Chairs, Senior Vice President, Senior National Practice Consultant, HNTB Corporation, Chicago, IL