LANGHORNE, PA – Today, April 15th, Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Tom Malinowski (NJ-07), Seth Moulton (MA-06), and Don Bacon (NE-02) led a bipartisan letter to the Acting Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) urging the agency to take stronger measures to ensure that frontline transit workers are protected amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Over 140 members of Congress signed on in support of the letter.
“In the brief time since Congress passed this historic funding, we have already seen the tragic death of frontline transit workers as a result of the novel coronavirus. Bus drivers, station agents, cleaners, and other frontline transit workers are contracting the virus at a rate much higher than the general public. Nationally, at least 60 transit workers have died as a result of COVID-19,” wrote the lawmakers.
“Our transit workers are out there every day, risking exposure to COVID-19 to provide vital services. The FTA should require public facilities, including buses and trains, to be disinfected, and enforce safe distancing between riders and transit operators,” said Congressman Fitzpatrick. “Taking these steps, in addition to current FTA guidance, will better protect our workers.”
“Just last week a long-time conductor on the Raritan Valley Line running through my district passed away due to COVID-19,” said Congressman Malinowski. “Our transit workers are risking their lives by going to work each day so that other essential workers – doctors, nurses, first responders – can continue to get to work. The very least we can do is provide them with a safe environment in which to do their jobs.”
“Transit workers are braving exposure to the coronavirus to get first responders, health care professionals, and other essential workers to the front lines of this pandemic. Transit workers need PPE and stronger guidance on how they can minimize their own exposure and it’s up to the Federal Transit Administration to step up and lead,” said Congressman Moulton.
“Our public transit workers are at a much higher risk for contracting COVID-19 as they continue to provide essential services to communities,” said Congressman Bacon. “Congress has a duty to ensure transit agencies and Americans are receiving the proper relief and guidance on how to safely go about their job.”
“Thank you to Congressman Malinowski, Congressman Fitzpatrick, Congressman Moulton, and Congressman Bacon for fighting to protect frontline transit workers, who have been risking their health and that of their families every single day during this crisis. The FTA must issue requirements about providing PPE and mandating proper social distancing on board public transit before more brave workers are needlessly thrown in harm’s way,” said Transport Workers Union International President John Samuelsen.
“Industry-wide, thousands of transit workers have already tested positive for Coronavirus, and 21 of our members have died,” said ATU International President John Costa. “Our members are getting infected at a rate that is higher than the general population because we are continuously exposed to dozens of riders at close range without adequate protections to keep us safe. It’s time for the FTA to require transit agencies to take these stronger actions to better protect our members and the riding public.”
The text of the letter is below.
The Honorable K. Jane Williams
Federal Transit Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20590
Dear Acting Administrator Williams:
As you know, Congress appropriated $25 billion in emergency funding in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to ensure Americans—including frontline healthcare workers, law enforcement, first responders, and other safety personnel—do not lose access to reliable transit during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to ensure frontline transit workers have access to personal protective equipment (PPE). We appreciate the work of you and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) staff in adhering to the very tight timeline we provided to get this immediate financial relief to transit agencies across the nation. We also appreciate the FTA’s recently updated guidance regarding PPE and safety protections for transit workers. We believe that these recommendations should be improved upon by making them mandatory during this crisis and by taking several more actions to bring FTA’s guidance fully in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In the brief time since Congress passed this historic funding, we have already seen the tragic death of frontline transit workers as a result of the novel coronavirus. Bus drivers, station agents, cleaners, and other frontline transit workers are contracting the virus at a rate much higher than the general public. Nationally, at least 60 transit workers have died as a result of COVID-19.
The guidance FTA has issued so far recognizes the importance of PPE and social distancing measures in preventing the transmission of COVID-19. We believe FTA should further update its guidance to the logical next step by working with transit agencies to mandate that:
- Buses, trains, streetcars, and worker facilities, including crew rooms, are regularly disinfected.
- Agencies are requiring a safe distance between riders and transit operators.
- Safety precautions are taken to protect transit workers from touching the same digital screen, keyboard, or fingerprint-scanning device, e.g. for timekeeping purposes.
- Brave front line workers are afforded death benefits.
Thank you for your timely attention to this important matter.