Covid-19 and public transport: what do we know?

The structural problems associated with the increase in Covid-19 cases are identified: poverty, precariousness and lack of public transport.

In view of the increase in the number of infected people in the region of Lisbon and the Tagus Valley, the Government decided last week to divide the country into three, with 19 parishes in the metropolitan area of ​​Lisbon being left in a state of calamity, including the “civic duty home collection ”.

Experts are divided as to the causes of these poor results in the Lisbon region, while health professionals have already demanded greater coordination in combating the pandemic in the capital. But it might not be a bad idea to pay attention notice from former Labor Minister Paulo Pedroso: “When the virus descended on the social scale, the approach started to change also in terms of communication in relation to the disease. Compassion for those affected is being replaced by blaming them. ”

However, those who did not seek simplistic answers, such as young people and parties, saw the emergence of structural problems associated with the increase in Covid-19 cases: poverty, precariousness and lack of public transport. This is all connected.

So let's talk about the problem of public transport, there are three things we know.

1) The lack of public transport was a choice

Videos have been multiplied on the social networks of trains and crowded meters of people who have no way of fulfilling social distance. The rule of a maximum of two thirds of capacity is simply not being met and these are the people who kept working throughout the pandemic period, many of whom live in the 19 most affected parishes.

However, it was only last week that the respective authority decided to increase the transport offer to 90%, which until now had operated at 50% of normal capacity. The option was to let people travel by bus to the pine cone. In the case of trains or the metro it is even worse, as there will be no reinforcement. That is why the Left Bloc called the Government to Parliament this Wednesday to clarify this matter.

2) The individual car is no solution

Scientists have already established a direct relationship between air pollution and Covid-19. The data indicate that people living in areas with more air pollution are more likely to be hit and die from the disease.

So whoever thinks that the solution to escape the pandemic is to bet on the car is totally wrong. Such a route would only increase air pollution, leaving us more vulnerable to this disease and all respiratory diseases associated with poor air quality. It is important to remember that the 2nd Circular next to Telheiras, Parque das Nações, Cais do Sodré and Av. Da Liberdade had levels of air pollution much higher than permitted by law.

3) There are solutions, but they are out of the box

There is a first solution to the problem: investing in public transport. It should be borne in mind that, during the troika, public transport companies were financially asphyxiated to be sold and that they are still struggling with a lack of resources. Even after the reduction in the price of passes, the levels of public financing for transport fluctuate between 25% and 30%, when in cities such as Madrid, Paris, or Barcelona they are at 45% -60%. There is no solution without public investment.

What has also been done across Europe is betting on bike paths. In the United Kingdom there are more than 40 municipalities that have bet on bicycle lanes pop-up, which allows those who did not ride a bicycle to have a safe and comfortable alternative to public transport.

In Lisbon, the City Council did the same, having announced more than 95 kilometers of cycle paths pop-up until 2021 and a € 3 million support program for the purchase of bicycles. It is a sensible measure, which contributes to the reduction of pollution, reduces the pressure on public transport and improves mobility in the city.

Instead of blaming people who have to go to work, it is better to look at the social facts that expose them to the risks of the pandemic. So maybe we will find better answers and less social hatred.

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