Is It Safer to Take Public Transportation or Ride-Share?
Understanding how to get around town during a pandemic
For the most part, existence during the pandemic occurs within the walls of one’s own home, but occasionally life demands a journey far beyond one’s front door. For people who don’t have access to a car, bike, or other vehicle, transportation often boils down to two options: public transportation or ride-sharing services, like Uber or Lyft.
Neither are great options, given the increased risk of spreading or catching Covid-19 when sharing an enclosed space with strangers. But sometimes you have no choice but to take one or the other.
Ellie Murray, PhD, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Boston University’s School of Public Health, says that the relative safety of public transportation or ride-sharing likely depends on the local Covid-19 conditions in your area. In the U.K., she notes, “people who drive buses, taxies, or ride shares had a high risk of Covid-19, so all shared transportation methods do probably convey some risk.”
A good rule of thumb is to “choose the least crowded option available to you,” she says. “If your local buses or subway cars are relatively empty, then that might be a safer option than a ride share, since there could be more space between you and other passengers than you and the driver in a ride share. If the public transportation is quite crowded, then ride share might be a preferred option.”
The usual rules of pandemic hygiene apply in both cases: Avoid touching surfaces unless it’s absolutely necessary, don’t touch your face or personal items, and wash your hands with soap and water once you get to where you’re headed.
“If you are heading home,” she adds, “you may also want to change into new clothes once you get in.”