That’s the Ticket: Public Transportation Cleaning

By Amy Milshtein

  • That’s the Ticket: Public Transportation Cleaning
That’s the Ticket: Public Transportation Cleaning

How do you get to work? Sure, you could drive alone or even carpool if you’re feeling social. But more and more commuters are choosing public transportation to get from here to there. Americans board busses, subways and commuter trains 35 million times each weekday, according to the American Public Transportation Association. The benefits, according to the group, are far-reaching: riders save 865 Million travel time hours and 450 Million gallons of fuel.


This boosts the stakes for public transportation cleaning even higher. No one wants to sit on a dirty seat, stand in a sticky mess or put their hand on a gross strap. Sometimes the problem is less of a nuisance and more of a public health hazard like when Portland, OR’s TriMet left a light rail car in service for 30 stops even though there was fresh blood, a clear biohazard, all over a seat, floor, wall and handrails earlier this year.


Clearer protocols and better communication could have saved TriMet from some embarrassing (and gross!) press coverage. But accidents aside, routine public transportation cleaning is important for the health and comfort of commuters. Check out these tips to keep the system from running off the rails.


End of the Line


Daily cleaning starts once the bus or train is pulled in for the night. Workers should clear out left over trash and debris but take care. The Transportation Research Board reports an increase of biohazardous materials, like hypodermic needles and germ-soaked tissues, left between seat cushions where they are not immediately visible. 


Once large debris is removed, cleaning staff must tackle dirt and grime. Some transit agencies use brooms to sweep out floors, others use cyclone vacuums. Both have issues. Hand sweeping is time consuming, a definite negative when quick turnaround is paramount. Cyclone vacuums are faster but they are also loud and generate lots of airborne dust. This dust can create respiratory problems for workers and cause sensitive on-board electronics like fare boxes and radio communications to malfunction.  


Innovative transit agencies are using spray-and-vac machines that remove dirt and grim completely while leaving surfaces dry. Tools like this allow for easier cleaning and faster turnaround.


No Food or Drink Allowed?

Commuters will eat and drink on public transportation, whether it’s allowed or not. While cleaning messes and wrappers is annoying, it’s nothing compared to removing chewing gum. Tools to remove stuck-on gum include a scraper or putty knife, commercial solvents and freezing sprays. NJ Transit has had success using a portable steam cleaner that lifts gum from floors and seats.


Click here for more public transportation cleaning tools and ideas.


Image source: freeimages.com

Amy Milshtein

Amy Milshtein

Amy Milshtein covers design, facility management and business topics for a variety of trade publications and consumer magazines. 

Her work has won several awards, most recently a regional silver Azbee Award of Excellence.

She lives in Portland, OR with her family and Clyde, a 15-lb tabby cat. Once an avid hiker, these days she finds herself on the less-challenging -but-still-exciting 'creaky knees' trails.

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