It’s hard to think of a more opportune place for a contagious virus to spread than in subways and on buses. Yet, weeks into the shutdown of businesses that never engender large crowds and prohibition in some states for citizens to hike in wide-open state parks, mass transit is still running to some degree in almost every major hot spot. Let me guess: This is also scientifically sound policy built on the vaunted “models and projections,” right?
So many parts of America are now thankful they don’t live in Europe, where so many people don’t have cars and rely instead on public transportation for everything. Cars are the great beacon of freedom, movement, and individualism and the symbol of America’s wide-open expanse. Cars are extremely reliable and facilitate every level of personal liberty and economic movement, yet at the same time they are the perfect long-term and short-term vehicle for social distancing and the antidote against viral spreading. Mass transit, on the other hand, is to coronavirus what water and sunlight are to plants.
Here is a sample of some major city or state transit systems still operating either at full or at reduced capacity as of April 1:
New York City
D.C. (reduced service)
New Orleans (weekend schedule)
Detroit (limited schedule)
San Francisco (buses, not trains)
In some of these cities, you could be pulled over and questioned for simply traveling alone in your car, but the subways are still open! New York is the big shocker. Police have to patrol the cars to count how many people are in them.
Wouldn’t you expect mass transit to be the first thing shut down during this epidemic? National Review’s Dan McLaughlin observes how by tracing the zip code map of coronavirus cases in New York City, it is quite evident that the subway lines could have played an outsized role in transmission of the virus.
Eyeballing where the subway lines don't run, it's not a perfect correlation, but the subway system looks like it acted as a pretty significant vector for the highest rates of transmission. A lesson for future outbreaks.https://t.co/Sj9w2vO6KQ pic.twitter.com/1wF4A71Enn
— Dan McLaughlin (@baseballcrank) April 1, 2020
Yes, shutting it down would be disruptive, but not nearly as disruptive as a full nuclear winter on all businesses and even very important medical care, which is now causing the furloughing of vital health care providers.
I live right outside Baltimore, not exactly rural Wyoming. Everyone in my neighborhood has two cars, and it is by no means an upper-income neighborhood. Keeping most businesses open, facilitated through individual car travel and wearing masks and gloves, would result in exponentially better outcomes for our lives, economy, and yes, defeating the virus than shutting everything down but leaving open mass transit.
Whatever value added one can possibly see in keeping mass transit open in large cities, even under a weekend schedule, it would not get nearly as many people to work as lifting some of the more draconian bans on businesses. And with so many people working at home anyway, lots of friends and neighbors who don’t have cars would be able to borrow them. It wouldn’t work for everyone, but it would sure get more people to work than a mandatory lockdown.
According to payroll provider ADP, the entirety of the net job losses in March came from small businesses, which are the easiest venues to implement safe sanitation and distancing. With mass transit still running and criminals being released, this is exactly the time we should apply the Illinois Supreme Court’s exception to state quarantine powers – when “regulations adopted for the protection of the public health are arbitrary, oppressive and unreasonable.” (People ex. rel. Barmore v. Robertson, 1922.)
Alas, the reality is that mass transit is a holy grail of the Left, just like jailbreak, which is why these authoritarian policies, not grounded in reality, are so arbitrary and political. Shockingly, rather than moving away from mass transit, $25 billion in transit funding was slipped into the coronavirus rescue bill that was signed into law last week. Nancy Pelosi is already calling for a “phase 4” coronavirus bill to fund mass transit, among other pet projects.
Again, at what point and after how much devastation are we the citizens going to start asking questions of the government and the media and why their supposed concern for science and regard for “science” always results in inconsistent outcomes benefiting their long-standing political beliefs? (For more from the author of “Subways, Buses and Trains Still Running in Coronavirus Hot Spots. How Exactly Does That Help Fight the Virus?” please click HERE)