by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
When most of the nation’s governors shut down nonessential businesses and directed people to stay at home, they made the mistake of keeping urban transit systems running despite a 2018 study showing that mass public transportation systems expedite the spread of infectious diseases in communities. Further, a 2011 study found that people who ride urban transit are nearly six times more likely to suffer from upper respiratory infections than people who don’t.
This suggests public transit should have been one of the first things shut down when we realized the seriousness of the pandemic. Instead, the transit lobby persuaded Congress to give transit agencies $25 billion so they could continue spreading the virus to more people. Transit agencies claim they need to keep running to help “essential workers” commute to their jobs. But if those workers are so essential, wouldn’t it be better for them to use safer transportation?
The situation is worst in New York, the nation’s only urban area that is truly dependent on transit. Before the pandemic began, the New York urban area contained 45 percent of the nation’s transit riders. Since the pandemic, the same area has seen 45 percent of Wuhan virus fatalities. …
… COVID-19 is what risk analyst Nassim Taleb calls a black swan, by which he means an unexpected event that can send major shock waves through an economy. Although individual black swans are unpredictable, they happen rather frequently: Think 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the 2008 financial crisis.
Each of these events should have taught us the importance of a resilient transportation system. It must be relatively immune from terrorist attacks, protect its users from infectious diseases, help people flee from natural disasters, and not be disabled by a loss of revenues during recessions and depressions.
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