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London’s Covid-Safe Commute Idea: Open-Air Buses

With many in London leery of public transportation, one U.K. tour bus company plans to use open-topped sightseeing buses to help workers get to the office.

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Open-Air Buses Could Help Bring Workers Back to London
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A London-based company is offering an alternative mass transportation mode that addresses some fears about coronavirus infection risks on public transit: a commuter service using open-topped buses. On-demand bus company Snap is currently testing a new offering that would ferry Londoners to and from work in some of the city’s 233 roof-less tourist buses. These are those double-decker vehicles with an open-air upper deck, used in cities worldwide to ferry sightseers about on “hop on, hop off” routes. Most of the London fleet is parked due to an absence of visitors; Snap is hoping to redeploy the open-topped tourist buses as Covid-safe pop-up transportation for locals, extending the pandemic-era trend of outdoor living to public transport. 

The service is still in development. Snap is currently going through a crowdsourcing process, taking details of people interested in the service to calculate which routes might have highest demand. Initial test journeys ran this week following the route of the London Underground’s Victoria Line, which runs across central London from northeast to southwest. Prices are expected to run at the same cost as an average tube journey — £3.30 ($4.19) — with multiple pick-up and drop off points for passengers but far fewer stops than the average bus. Snap estimates that it can run a viable service at that cost with passengers filling just a quarter of a bus’s usual capacity, a level that would make it possible for everyone to sit on the upper deck and maintain some distance from each other. Frequent cleanings after each trip would further mitigate risk.