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Understanding Transit Needs of Essential Workers - Streetsblog

Berkeley study aims to understand and quantify transit needs in a pandemic.

Everyone is dependent on transit during this pandemic, whether they realize it or not, explained the authors of a new study on essential workers and their transit needs. That’s because even people who are able to work from home depend on essential workers for medical care, food, power, emergency services, water, etc. Without transit, the essential workers who support those services would not be able to get to work and get the job done. “Work from home” would be impossible because society would cease to function.


That was just one of the motivations for Making Transit Work for Essential Workers, a study done by UC Berkeley’s Department of City and Regional Planning in conjunction with Seamless Bay Area. “While COVID-19 means working remotely for many people in the Bay area, tens of thousands of residents still use transit every week. Not only are these travelers having to face the very real risk of COVID every day, but they’re also dependent on transit agencies that have strained budgets and massive service cuts,” said Andrew Tate, a Berkeley grad student and one of the study authors, during a virtual conference about the study held Wednesday.

Part of Wednesday’s presentation on making transit work for essential workers.


Their study expanded the definition of “essential workers” to anyone making “essential travel,” even if it’s not a front-line worker. They also spoke with cyclists, transit operators, and even drivers–anyone who has no choice but to commute despite the lockdowns. “It was helpful to document these experiences for comparison,” said Tate.


The study authors consulted with transportation agencies and advocacy groups. After that, they interviewed 11 people to map their commutes. The idea is to identify problems that can only be found by listening and mapping the journeys of people who are actually traveling during the pandemic.

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