The COVID-19 pandemic raised our awareness of the dangers of spreading this disease from one person to another through close physical distance and contact. The pandemic has kept us on our toes whenever we go into public places or areas where large groups of people gather. Public transportation is an essential service needed in any community.
However, with the new health and safety protocols in place, riding airplanes, ferry boats, and buses are no longer as easy and convenient as the pre-pandemic days. The good news is that there’s still a mode of public transportation that is a safe choice for travel during this pandemic – the train.

Read on as we explore the reasons why trains are a good choice for travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trains Are a Good Alternative to Planes for Long-Distance Travel

When it comes to public transport over long distances across the U.S., many would prefer passenger planes to get to their destinations fast and safely. With the current safety measures being enforced by governments to stop the spread of COVID-19, getting on board a plane is no longer smooth sailing, and the number of available tickets and flights have dwindled to half the original capacity.

Trains also can also bring you to your long-distance destination safely and conveniently. Their ticketing system and boarding procedures are user-oriented and allow for expedient travel. Train travel time takes longer compared to traveling by plane, but it provides comparable comfort and safety for travelers. Traveling from Washington DC to Boston by plane takes at least 3 hours, but if you’re in not much of a hurry, DC to Boston train travel takes at least 7 hours. Nevertheless, in both travel options, you can relax, take a nap, or read a book, but the train gives the extra benefit of taking in the sights and beautiful sceneries from the window.

Arranged Seating Allows for Physical Distancing

Most of us already know that the main mode of COVID-19 transmission is through respiratory droplets transferred from person to person. Amtrak management and staff have taken strict measures to follow and enforce strict health protocols when traveling by train. Much of the transmission risk in train travel come from fellow passengers and staff, which is why the train staff follow physical distancing protocols and enforce the same to passengers to ensure their safety while traveling. Aside from regular disinfection of the train facilities and cabins, the safety measures extend to limiting bookings and seating capacity, especially for short-distance or inter-city routes with regular train service schedules. Most of the trains have daily travel schedules, but these are currently limited to three train travel schedules per week. 

Travelers who frequently take the Washington-New York-Boston route have the option of taking regular Amtrak trains or the Acela Express. The former has a coach and business class seatings, while the latter has business class and first class. Whichever train of seat type you select, you can be sure that you are not seated beside another passenger or somewhere too close to another passenger. 

Sleeping Cars Offer Comfort and Safety

Whether you are traveling alone or with your family, you need ample space to move around while traveling, especially if the travel time takes more than 5 hours. Trains traveling long-distance routes offer sleeper accommodations in their sleeping cars. You can select from roomettes, bedrooms, and special bedrooms for your sleeping car accommodation. This is a good safety feature, especially when you are traveling with your family. All three accommodations give a room of your own or to share with your family, which lessens the worries about physical distancing and viral transmission. The rooms can be pricey but well worth it, considering how much you’ll be spending on COVID-19 medical treatment. After all, prevention is still better than cure.

Ticketing and Boarding Procedures Are Generally Safe

When it comes to the safety measures of ticket purchase. Most of the ticketing transactions of Amtrack online, and you are issued e-tickets through email. Even if you prefer to have a physical ticket, you do not have to go to any ticketing station to purchase or pick up your ticket. You can make your bookings online or by phone and retrieve the tickets at the train station before departure.

Safe boarding is also ensured when you travel by train. Train staff and crew will assist travelers in forming a queue with enough distance while orderly boarding the different doors of the train. While the usual boarding procedure may have been a lot easier prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the management and staff are making sure not to compromise the safety of train passengers by using a queuing scheme and requiring the wearing of face masks.

How About Subways and Commuter Trains?

Perhaps one of the busiest public transport systems is found in the state of New York, where the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) provides and regulates the metropolitan transportation network comprising of buses, subways, and commuter rail cars. With more than 15 million commuters traveling its 5,000-square-mile travel area fanning out from New York City through Long Island, southeastern New York State, and Connecticut, MTA’s public transport network is the lifeblood of the New York City area. Thus, MTA’s various agencies are stepping up efforts to ensure that their transport services can still safely bring employees, workers, students, and regular passengers to their destinations.

MTA is making sure that all its trains, cars, and buses are regularly disinfected, including heavy contact surfaces in the stations such as ticket vending machines, turnstiles, elevators, escalators, and benches. Seating capacities are reduced, and social distancing protocols are strictly enforced in subways and rail cars. Wearing face masks is becoming a mandatory requirement to further ensure their safety. Also, ventilation systems are being improved to prevent the trapping of respiratory droplets in confined train spaces.

Given the current efforts of different public transportation companies, we can still feel assured that our travels are safe onboard public transportation systems. Now that the holiday season is officially here, most of us have to travel and be with our families or bring along our families to meet our relatives. As much as we want to hold off our non-essential travels, family bonding is important and trains a safe public transportation choice. So book your train tickets early, and enjoy the holidays in good health.

Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia from Pexels




I've been writing since 2008 about a wide range of topics. I also love making furniture in my spare time, and birdwatching with my wife near our home in southern England.

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