The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that employers offer employees incentives to use private vehicles to get to work, rather than public transportation or shared rides. Part of a broader set of coronavirus-related workplace recommendations, the guidelines included "biking, walking, driving or riding by car either alone or with household members" as options.
Paul Skoutelas, CEO of the American Public Transportation Association, criticized the CDC's guidance in a statement released on May 29.
He said many individuals face financial barriers to owning a car and the guidance ignores essential workers' reliance on public transportation. He also said increased traffic could lead to increased pollution.
"Gridlock and polluted skies are not the mobility future we want emerging from this crisis," he said.
Corinne Kisner, executive director of the National Association of City Transportation Officials, also issued a statement May 29, calling the CDC's recommendation "misguided, unsafe and unworkable for cities."
"Driving alone is the least efficient, least sustainable and least affordable way for people to move," she said.
Companies providing shared transportation services have ramped up safety protocols in response to the coronavirus. Lyft said in a blog post May 7 that it is launching its Health Safety Program, which requires drivers and riders to wear face masks and confirm they are asymptomatic before boarding. The program provides cleaning supplies and masks to the driver and health safety education for both parties.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said on May 13 that Uber's Go Online Checklist will ensure drivers wear masks while on the job by asking the driver to take a selfie. Riders and drivers are both allowed to cancel rides with no penalty if they feel unsafe.
Despite Uber and Lyft's implementation of safety measures, a survey conducted in April by the IBM Institute for Business Value shows that some consumers are leaning toward following the CDC's recommendations. Out of 25,000 U.S. customers polled, more than 17 percent said they plan to use their own vehicles more because of the coronavirus, and about 1 in 4 said it will be their only transportation method. However, almost 25 percent of respondents said that they plan not to purchase a vehicle for more than six months.
More than 20 percent of respondents who regularly used public transportation such as buses, subways and trains said they will discontinue using these services.
IBM also expects increases in shared-mobility trends to dwindle. The new CDC guidelines may prove to expedite that process.