clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How to get around LA safely during the coronavirus outbreak

New, 16 comments

Whether driving or riding transit, take precautions

A bus and a car move past a nearly empty sidewalk
Public health officials say it’s important to wash your hands before and after going out.

Amid an outbreak of novel coronavirus, local officials have ordered Los Angeles County residents to stay at home, unless engaging in “essential activities.”

Still, whether stocking up on groceries or commuting to jobs deemed “essential,” many people still need to get around the city.

If you’re wondering how best to do that, here’s a rundown of the options:

Public transportation

Metro CEO Phil Washington told reporters today that the county’s largest transit agency will remain open, despite a 50 percent drop in ridership over the last few weeks.

“We want to operate for as long as we can,” Washington said Friday.

Schedules, however, will be adjusted to account for the fact that fewer people are riding. A 15 to 20 percent reduction in service will mean trains and buses come less often.

Bus systems operated by the cities of Los Angeles (DASH), Santa Monica (Big Blue Bus), and Long Beach (Long Beach Transit) are also still operating, though all have reduced service on some routes.

Washington says no Metro employees have tested positive for coronavirus and that the agency is regularly sanitizing buses and trains and installing hand sanitizer dispensers at busy stops to ensure the safety of staff and customers. The drop in ridership, he says, means most passengers can follow public health directives to remain at least 6 feet apart.

Both Metro and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation have asked riders to board buses through the back door to ensure drivers aren’t exposed to the virus.

Lisa Dabby, assistant clinical professor of emergency medicine at UCLA, recommends riders using public transportation wash their hands before and after boarding and, if possible, wipe down surfaces like seats or poles with a disinfecting wipe.

Private vehicles

Dabby says it’s important that people take guidance from health officials seriously and limit trips by car, as well as those made on transit.

“If you touch surfaces at the market, then touch your door handle, then touch your steering wheel,” says Dabby, it doesn’t matter that you’re isolated from others while in your vehicle.

Taxis and ride-hailing vehicles

The same logic applies to trips made in taxis or in ride-hailing vehicles like Uber and Lyft, where previous riders have probably handled seatbelts and door handles. The Los Angeles Department of Transportation last week ordered taxi companies to clean vehicles daily.

Both Uber and Lyft are still operating, but have eliminated carpool options that allow riders to group up and pay a reduced price.

Bikes, scooters, skateboards

Even bikes, scooters, and other personal devices should be wiped down with disinfectant before and after use, Dabby says.

Opportunities to rent electric bikes and scooters are suddenly few and far between. Citing concerns about the spread of the virus, companies Bird and Lime have removed vehicles from California. Both Metro’s bike share system and similar systems in the cities of Santa Monica and Long Beach are still up and running.


Dabby says that, while it’s important to limit travel as much as possible, walking, rolling, or strolling are still good ways for people to get around their neighborhood.

“I think it’s healthy for people to exercise and walk,” she says. “We have a lot of space on our sidewalks. You can walk down the street and not have someone within six feet of you.”