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

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. In addition to causing illness and death, the COVID-19 pandemic triggered considerable impacts to the emotional well-being of society as people experience elevated anxiety and stress. Stress increased for many transportation employees who were often required to work longer hours because of employee shortages. Public facing transportation employees experienced added stress when expected to promote (or enforce) safety measures since some of the traveling public reacted with unruly behavior when responding to mask requirements or social distancing protocols. While the causes of these public outbursts and displays is not part of this research, they create challenges for transportation agencies in protecting the health and well-being of their employees. Restoring public confidence in the various travel modes, in particular public transportation and other shared modes, is critical. 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.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $350000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project F-30

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Transit Cooperative Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001

    Federal Transit Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Schwager, Dianne

  • Start Date: 20211220
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01758789
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project F-30
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: Nov 23 2020 3:06PM