The National Academies

TCRP F-30 [Active]

Guide for Protecting Transportation Employees and the Traveling Public from Airborne Diseases

  Project Data
Funds: $350,000
Staff Responsibility: Dianne Schwager
Research Agency: University of Californina, Riverside
Principal Investigator: Heejung Jung
Effective Date: 5/3/2022
Completion Date: 11/3/2023

Protecting the health and safety of transportation employees and the traveling public is a key goal of all transportation agencies. The COVID-19 pandemic, transmitted by an airborne virus, created a global health crisis not seen in a century, affecting all modes of transportation that convey groups of people in closed vehicles.  
Bus operators are the most public-facing transportation employees and are therefore among the most vulnerable to airborne contagion. Other transportation employees (e.g., rail operators, paratransit operators, ferry employees, station attendants, security personnel, shared-mobility drivers, roadside assistants, toll booth collectors) are at risk of contracting an airborne contagion because they interact with the public who may be infected, work in enclosed spaces, and cannot work remotely.  Additionally, many transportation employees are at risk because they work in crews that don’t allow for physical distancing. These crews include road and vehicle maintenance, facility and utility repairs, and construction. These transportation support personnel have increased exposure to airborne contagion while working at, or traveling to, worksites, often in agency-owned vehicles. 
It is essential for transportation agencies to know what it takes to protect the health and well-being of their employees and the traveling public from airborne disease. Improved understanding of (1) effective near- and longer-term contagion mitigation strategies and practices, (2) better methods for conveying information, and (3) more thorough implementation guidance (that addresses costs and effectiveness) will assist transportation agencies respond during the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for future pandemics. This research project is jointly funded by the National Highway Cooperative Research Program (NCHRP) and the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP). The primary audience for this research includes public transportation agencies (i.e., agencies that provide bus, rail, ferry, and paratransit services) and departments of transportation.

The objective of this research is to develop a guide for public transportation agencies and departments of transportation to mitigate exposure to airborne diseases to protect the health and well-being of transportation system employees while at work and to protect the traveling public. The research should identify near- and longer-term strategies and practices that will (1) reduce the likelihood of transportation employees and the public from contracting airborne diseases, (2) increase confidence in the safety of transportation systems, and (3) help agencies make more informed decisions regarding the health and well-being of their employees and the traveling public during periods of airborne contagion.

STATUS:  The research is underway.

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