Exploring the Role of Transit in COVID-19 Transmission

Research Lead: David Brownstone

University: UC Irvine

Problem Statement: With a high concentration of cases in urban areas nationwide, several questions arise for transit in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. None, perhaps, are more important than understanding the role that transit has played in transmitting COVID-19, especially in dense Los Angeles County. After all, answering this question would help transit agencies in balancing between offsetting revenue losses resulting from declining ridership resulting from statewide stay-at-home orders and closures of non- essential businesses and providing frequent service for essential workers to avoid crowding and maintain social distancing guidelines. Moreover, understanding the connection between transit use and COVID-19 infections can dictate public transportation policy for the coming months, at a minimum, as California still wrestles with the pandemic.

Project Description: This project aims to begin to attempt to address the question of how transit affected the spread of COVID-19, using Los Angeles as a case study. The primary objective of the research is to more rigorously define the relationship between transit use and outbreaks, which is currently sorely needed in the literature. Additionally, the research will have multiple auxiliary objectives: First, this research will focus on community transmission resulting from transit use instead of focusing on the ability for intercity transportation modes to transmit COVID-19. Second, this research will aim to look for evidence of the possible mechanisms of transmission that I will outline in this proposal. Third, this research also aims to provide evidence as to whether transit use affects density’s impact on accelerating COVID-19 transmission.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $7,472