SEPTA trains and buses have great airflow — which means less coronavirus risk for riders - Billy Pen

Along with mask-wearing, health officials say ventilation is key to avoiding infection.

Airflow matters when it comes to preventing the spread of coronavirus. Turns out SEPTA cars are a pretty safe place to be, relative to other indoor spaces.

Philly’s transit authority is stocked with vehicles that are capable of ventilating frequently. New air refreshes cars on both the Broad Street Line and Market-Frankford Line every 2 to 3 minutes — and there are similar rates across the system: on buses, Regional Rail and trolley cars.

Indoor spaces with good ventilation are considered less risky than those without, scientists say, because airflow can dilute the presence of viral particles in your immediate space.

In general, public transit has proven itself low-risk for transmission in cities all over the world. With solid ventilation, there’s reason to feel comfortable riding SEPTA, health officials say, so long as you’re also wearing a mask and keeping your distance.

A less dangerous public transportation system means added safety for Philly’s essential workers — who often must ride SEPTA daily.

“I know it’s real, because I know a couple people who had family members and friends who caught it,” said Maurice Love, who takes the MFL to his job at UPS every day. “As scared as we might be, you still gotta go out, especially if you’re an essential worker.”

A ventilation system designed in the ’80s SEPTA’s high-frequency ventilation system wasn’t designed with the coronavirus in mind. Current MFL cars date back to the ’90s, and those running along the BSL were designed 10 years before that. But in the midst of the current pandemic, the fact that they’re able to rapidly circulate air is helpful.

“It’s not something we’ve put into place because of COVID. It goes back to the design of the vehicles,” said SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch. “But we’re certainly happy it’s there.”

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