Transmission of Germs on Public Transportation

Join Jung Min’s Synchronous Session on April 27 at 8:20 AM American Central Time to watch the live presentation.

Dallas Area Rapid Transit Light Rail
Photo by Jung Min Yean

Background Information:

In 2017, 10.1 billion people in the United States took trips on public transportation. Like in any major city, people use trains and buses to get to work and school every day. The high number of people riding public transportation to work and school increase the risk of spreading bacteria and viruses that can lead to diseases. Some common diseases include:

  • Cold/respiratory infection
  • Staph infection (Staphylococcus bacteria)
  • Influenza
  • Gastrointestinal disease
  • Tuberculosis
  • Viral Meningitis

How Public Transit Companies Clean their Vehicles:

“Buses and trains are cleaned thoroughly every night as part of our regulary maintenance…. Heavy cleaning is performed nightly at all locations.”

– InMotion by Dart, January 2016

Many city-owned transportation systems claim that their buses are fully cleaned and wiped down regularly. When I recently rode one of DART’s light rail, I examined its cleanliness. There were hundreds of dead bugs in the ceiling light covers and dust was heavily piling up between the seat and the window. “Heavy cleaning” can be safely assumed as picking up the trash and mopping the floor, however, those methods are not effective in eliminating harmful bacteria.

Japan V.S. The United States:

Japanese subways are known to be the cleanest forms of public transportation. Thousands of workers are hired to keep the trains and stations squeaky clean. While train stations like New York’s subway stations house many rats that carry harmful germs, Japanese stations are so clean that not a single rat can be found. The subways are also cleaned every day posing less threat of infections for citizens riding them when compared to any train in America.

It’s embarrassing how clean Tokyo’s subways are compared to New York’s.

Posted by ATTN: Video on Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Public transportation in the United States needs to change. They have to stop as a breeding ground for infectious germs and need to become safer for the community. America needs to step up their game.

Regulating the Spread of Germs:

While eliminating all transmission of germs on public transportation is impossible, there are some measures that the city of Dallas can take, as well as other major cities, to prevent the rapid spread of these bacteria and viruses throughout the community. Here are a few ways the city could improve the sanitation of public transportation:

  • Add more hand sanitizers around the train stations and on trains.
  • Offer cleaning wipes on trains as they do at stores to clean the cart.
  • Build more bathrooms at train stations for easy access to sinks.
  • Create a schedule with mandatory deep cleaning of the trains.

Some cities do not have the budget to implement those changes, however, the citizens should be educated and reminded about sanitation and health. Posters that remind people to wash their hands are cheap to make and distribute to hang around public areas. The citizens should be informed of these following concepts for when the ride public transportation:

  • Try to not touch the train with bare hands. Handrails house the most strains of bacteria and viruses. If possible, use your sleeve or gloves when holding the rails.
  • Stand on trains and avoid sitting. When people sit down and touch the seats, they are exposing themselves to germs that are left on the cushions of the seats.
  • Bring a small bottle of hand sanitizer every time you ride the train.
  • Always wash your hands as soon as you leave the vehicle.

Things to Remember:

Remember that whenever you touch anything, you can become a host for bacteria and viruses. When you touch things at work or school, such as a doorknob, you have now exposed anyone else who touches that object to the possibility of getting an infection.

Some scientists argue that exposure to different strains can be beneficial to a person’s immunity. Although germs can increase our immune system’s resistance to bacteria and viruses, harmful germs that are found on public transportation and have high chances of giving infections can be transmitted less between the population if the community manages to wash their hands regularly.

Hopefully, if the U.S. implement changes in the public transportation systems, citizens can one day have a community that is as healthy as other nations.

How You Can Create Change:

I call on you to educate your neighbors about the transmission of germs on public transporation and remind them to wash their hands regularly. Not only does handwashing help to prevent spread, it can also help people from catching infections from the strains that others have transmitted. Once you complete this task, figure out a way to make a change in the community, such as adding a bathroom or hand sanitizers. How will you educate others? How can we implement this change in major cities? What can the city/state/country do to make our subways and cities cleaner and healthier? Leave your answer in the flipgrid below.

Share this project
  1. April 26, 2019 by Laura.Reysz

    Jung, this is a powerful presentation. I love the opening and closing videos. Your plan is realistic and I know everyone can learn something.

  2. April 26, 2019 by bryent.takayama

    Hey Jung! What an interesting presentation. I thought that your “Truth about Germs on Trains” graphs was particularly impactful and alarming. Although I am from Seattle, WA, I have had the opportunity to ride in both the New York and Tokyo Subway systems. Not only is the New York subway system filthy, but trains also often arrive late. In Tokyo, thirty seconds is considered late. My question for you is what you believe we can do besides simply educating ourselves and our peers on this sanitization issue? In Japan, cleanliness and public discipline are ingrained into the culture; perhaps we will need a cultural transformation of sorts to make our metro systems cleaner?

  3. April 30, 2019 by Samira.Kethu

    Great job on your presentation Jung! I love how you actually went out and took pictures and videos for this project! It really shows how passionate you are about your topic and how you plan on inspiring change. This is an amazing topic and I’m so glad you’re raising so much awareness towards it!

    • May 04, 2019 by Krish M Sheth

      Yup, adding to this, I like that you became immersed in the issue yourself. This shows your determination and work ethic. Great Job!

  4. May 12, 2019 by Rin Zoot

    I remember that my mom used to always tell me that the subway was extremely dirty and that I needed to wash my hands every time I ride the train. However, I never really took it seriously, until now. I know the possible consequences of riding the subway, and how dirty they really are. The statistics you show are shocking, and they really show the severity of the situation.

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