Bleach Wipe-Downs, Plastic Seats: Inside SEPTA's Efforts to Protect Riders

The transit authority has ramped up cleaning to keep riders and its employees safe from coronavirus

Man wipes down transit turnstiles

The next time you hop on a SEPTA bus or train, you’ll notice plenty of changes. The transit authority has given its trains and vehicles sterilization makeovers.

Now, you’ll see plastic seats on buses. Shields also surround bus drivers to protect them from coronavirus.

“We are only using buses with plastic seats — not fabric, because they’re easier to clean and sterilize,” said Leslie Richards, SEPTA's general manager.

“We have stepped up on sterilization. We have more dedicated wipe-down crews helping us with cleaning. Bus operators are also wiping down surfaces during daily runs. We do a deep cleaning twice a day with a bleach ingredient,” Richards added.

A SEPTA worker cleans fare turnstiles.

In addition, SEPTA employees are equipped with gloves and extra sterilization equipment.

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Most important, there are fewer riders. As the public is encouraged to practice social distancing and with more people working from home, fewer passengers are relying on the transit authority.

SEPTA’s daily ridership used to be 1.3 million; now, that’s down by as much as 70 percent.

“We are getting the message out that people should only be taking essential trips. We are here to provide service, but we also want our customers to use us when it’s absolutely needed,” said Richards.

Richards admitted this has been a learning experience. She said she’s in frequent contact with her transit authority contacts in other states.

“We’ve spoken to our collegues at the MTA and the New Jersey Transit, New Jersey, Seattle. … We’re all sharing ideas. We’re all experiencing this together.”

And while it’s unclear when things will return to business as usual, Richards said she remains hopeful.

“We are in this for the long haul. We know we are going to get through this, but we don’t know when this will end. So, we have to be good to each other.”

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