While governments around the world are advising their citizens to stay home in order to flatten the curve of COVID-19, for many drivers, this is not an option. In Canada, as in other countries, transit workers are still on the roads, and at a considerable risk.
"With businesses shuttered, schools closed, and streets nearly deserted as Toronto enters what's expected to be a prolonged shutdown to slow the virus, most of the TTC's roughly 5,000 bus, streetcar, and subway operators remain on the job. So are the thousands of mechanics, transit control staff, cleaners, and other employees who support day-to-day operations."
While the number of passengers riding the TTC is far down, transit remains crucial in transporting people involved in essential services around the city. One TTC driver, despite concerns over his health, said that he continues to work for those nurses, doctors, and first responders who are helping to save lives.
His health concerns, and those of other TTC drivers, are legitimate, however. Even with less volume, drivers are still operating vehicles for 8+ hours a day without knowing if passengers are sick or have been in contact with someone who has been sick.
"[One] driver said he's taking extra precautions by being careful about what he touches and wiping down his work area. But some tasks still make him nervous, like the safety check that requires him to physically touch bus stanchions and emergency windows at the start of each shift to ensure they're stable."
This situation is in many ways typical of the bind that cities across the world are in with COVID-19: the need for essential services to remain operational means that essential workers are required to be vulnerable to infection. There is no easy solution.
However, reminders that there are those who are shouldering a larger risk can serve as a call to action for those who, because of work or financial situations, are less vulnerable. We can play our part in keeping these workers safe - by using public transit only when absolutely necessary and, when necessary, by washing our hands and sanitizing rigorously.
For more on how public transit workers are being affected, check out the original article by Ben Spurr.