Public Transportation

Last updated 04/15/2020

In alignment with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and public health recommendations, the Healthy Buildings Team at Harvard has prepared guidelines to aid in the prevention of COVID-19 through basics of COVID-19 prevention, cleaning and disinfecting of electronics, and building control and operation. In addition to these general preventative best practices, we provide specific recommendations to reduce COVID-19 spread in food establishmentschildcare, and public transportation facilities.

This guidance is not intended to replace policy or direction specific to your local government or institution.

CDC has discouraged residents of certain states to refrain from non-essential domestic travel. Employees of critical infrastructure industries are excluded from this travel advisory.

Some states have discouraged all non-essential travelers from using public transport to preserve that service for essential employees and other absolutely necessary purposes.

Travelers and commuters should not take public transportation, taxis, or rideshares if experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, have had direct contact with an individual confirmed with COVID-19, or have traveled internationally within the last 14 days.

If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, follow CDC instructions.

In addition to the general preventative disinfection guidance, the following are some best practices to protect drivers and passengers from COVID-19 in public transportation and rideshare settings. 

Disinfection for Public Transportation

  • Modes of public transportation should follow general preventative disinfection guidance, concentrating on high-touch surfaces such as buttons, handholds, pull cords, rails, transit operator’s work area, and fare gates and fare vending machines. 
  • Drivers should plan to clean and disinfect their cars regularly – especially after a passenger who appears to be sick and after medical passengers. Close attention should be paid to surfaces that are often touched by passengers.
  • During and after disinfection, keep vehicle windows open to prevent buildup of chemicals that may cause eye and respiratory problems. 
  • Provide tissues and alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% ethyl alcohol) at transportation entrances and stations throughout the system. 
  • If possible, open vehicle windows during travel to provide increased air ventilation and reduce airborne exposure. 
  • Drivers should avoid handling money when possible, or wear disposable gloves if you must collect money from customers.

Social Distancing for Public Transportation

  • Avoid close contact (within 6 feet) with others while on buses, trains, and subways.
  • Close seating on buses or trains can increase the risk of transmission of respiratory viruses. Maximize space between riders (e.g. one rider per seat in every other row).
  • Consider your personal risk before using public transportation, recognizing that evidence to date suggests greater impacts on vulnerable populations, including older individuals and those with underlying medical conditions.
  • Have a back-up plan for avoiding public spaces, including public transportation, in case you get exposed to or are sick with COVID-19. 
  • Transportation agencies should establish clear safety expectations for potentially contagious individuals to protect uninfected workers and riders.
  • Taxi and rideshare drivers should ask passengers to sit in the back of the vehicle to create physical distance. 
  • Consider implementing rear-door only entrance to buses, metro, and trains, while reserving front-door entry for seniors and those with disabilities.


For further information about COVID-19 prevention measures in public transportation settings, refer to the follow resources:

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