Rantz: Do not ride the bus during Seattle coronavirus crisis
You shouldn’t ride King County Metro buses during the Seattle coronavirus crisis unless you absolutely must. It’s not as safe as it needs to be to justify riding on one.
The stay-at-home order doesn’t apply to workers at businesses deemed essential. And if you have a car to get to that essential job, you should use it.
The Seattle coronavirus bus problem
Before the Seattle coronavirus concerns, we had another crisis demanding our attention: The homelessness crisis.
Rather than get folks off the streets and into shelter, treatment, and job training programs, city leaders took a laissez-faire approach, leaving the homeless alone until the city could enact pie-in-the-sky housing policies that require illegal or unpopular taxes on big business and the rich. They let the homeless suffer, so they could try to punish Amazon or one-percenters.
Now, we have a homeless crisis as coronavirus spreads. And, the homeless are particularly at-risk. They don’t have easy or consistent access to warm water and soap. And they’re not getting access to the same 24/7 coronavirus coverage as the rest of us. They may not know the problems with spreading coronavirus while being asymptomatic and they’re not getting hammered with media coverage telling them to stay in place.
Instead, they’re riding the bus for free and, as many bus drivers have told me, many aren’t going to any particular destination. They’re merely riding a warm bus. This was backed up by “Seattle’s friendliest bus driver” in an interview with Seattle’s Morning News on KIRO Radio.
“In my anecdotal experience, I’m getting a lot of what I call ‘non-destination passengers,’ basically folks without housing who ride back and forth, and I would say around 80 percent or so of my entire ridership now is non-destination passengers,” Nathan Vass said.
And if they’re sick and asymptomatic, they’ll help spread the disease to essential workers.
It’s just not that safe
Every person who rides the bus during this Seattle coronavirus crisis puts people at risk — and that’s with access to soap and warm water. It’s why we’re told to stay at home unless it’s absolutely necessary to leave.
Every homeless person who takes a bus puts people at even greater risk because of the lack of hygienic resources. And, since Seattle officials refused to move them indoors, they have nowhere to go.
Concerns over bus hygiene are not new and not exclusive to Seattle. The New York Times reported:
With a virus that is extremely contagious, public transit systems have emerged as a focus of concern, each having enclosed spaces with surfaces where the coronavirus can linger for days if they are not sanitized. Drivers, too, are concerned about their potential exposure to the virus, and transit officials have worried about how they would function if a large number of workers are infected and unable to work.
The good news is that buses are emptier than before the coronavirus, but they’re not being cleaned after each passenger leaves.
Take a car. Or walk and bike
If you have a car, you should ditch Metro and drive solo. Seattle is loath to ever recommend cars, even during a public health crisis. It’s their stubborn ideology at work. But it’s the safest way to travel. It’s the epitome of social distancing.
If you can, walk or bike, too. We’ve had a bit of good weather and even if it might be more inconvenient, it’s much safer during the Seattle coronavirus scare if you’re practicing social distancing.
I know not everyone can do this. But if you can, you should. If you can’t, be extra careful on our buses.
Washington Coronavirus stay-at-home Update
Governor Jay Inslee on Thursday announced he is extending the coronavirus stay-at-home order until at least May 4. He said he’s not ruling out another extension past the May 4 order.