In a week, the coronavirus razed U.S. transit and rail systems

By Luz Lazo and Justin George : washingtonpost – excerpt

As recently as a month ago, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority was talking about increasing service, having finally turned a corner after years of precipitous ridership declines.

The gains were wiped out in a couple of weeks as the coronavirus pandemic swept the country, shutting down normal life and crippling Metro and transit systems nationwide as people teleworked and stayed home out of fear, by government order or because they had been laid off…

The financial losses for the transit sector are projected to be in the billions and the impacts and disruptions could stretch for weeks if not more, say experts and transit leaders who fear that even when the crisis is over, recovery could take months, if not years… (more)

This crisis points out what many have suspected for years. The public transit model is not financially sustainable in the worst of time and it may not be in the best of times after the virus scare subsides due to three things:

  1. Public distrust in government is at an all time high leading people to seek independence and freedom of movement.
  2. Financial burdens on the public health system will take precedence over other matters.
  3. Many off-site jobs may remain off-site leading to less commuters on streets and public transportation.

Will coronavirus spur a traffic-solving remote-work revolution? Don’t count on it

By Nico Savage : mercurynews – excerpt

Emergency shelter-in-place orders cleared rush-hour freeways. Will that last?

One can only hope. But, here are some thoughts on the subject.

For a region used to organizing daily life around the rhythms of rush hour, last week was downright eerie.

There was no sea of brake lights at the Bay Bridge toll plaza each morning. No caravan of super-commuters inching west on Interstate 580 before dawn. No sardine-can cramming onto BART trains. No hellacious crawl down Highway 101 at 5 p.m.

As the Bay Area races to contain a deadly pandemic that has upended life as we know it, our region is also being thrust into a mass experiment in remote work. Albeit unintended, we’re seeing firsthand how having large numbers of people do their jobs at home instead of in offices could be a solution to the grinding traffic that captured our attention in the days before COVID-19.

Businesses that may have been hesitant to allow employees to work remotely now have no choice. Workers curious about ditching their commute and working full-time from home are doing just that. Whether those habits stick could have big implications for the traffic congestion that fuels climate change while sapping Bay Area residents’ time and money…

“There could be some managers who say, ‘We actually did pretty well,’” Choudhury added, “or stare at the empty offices and say, ‘Why do we need these offices?’”…

But Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino predicted the temporary change could catch on with some companies and workers, spurring “permanent shifts that will lead to positive impacts on traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emission reductions.”

Telework has become increasingly popular as new technology allows companies to create a workplace anywhere, whether with instant messages on Slack or video conferences using Zoom or GoToMeeting… (more)