One of the few bright spots during the pandemic has been the outpouring of support for hospital and other frontline workers, like in Spain, where citizens kicked off the practice of cheering out their windows every night last month. Now, Amtrak — which has seen its ridership obliterated by the pandemic — is asking train and bus operators to honk their horns today to honor transit and other essential workers who are on a different kind of frontline of the fight against COVID-19.
The passenger rail company says it’s coordinating with the New York City area’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), New Jersey’s NJ Transit, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), and Metrolink and AC Transit on the West Coast to get as many people on board for the so-called “#SoundTheHorn campaign.” Operators are supposed to let out “two one-second horn blasts” at 3PM ET today — which Amtrak adorably illustrated in a four-second vertical video posted to Vimeo, of all places.
It’s a small gesture, to be sure. But what transit workers are doing to keep the transportation system moving for those who need it deserves as much attention as possible right now. Transit agencies are experiencing far more than just financial pain, as COVID-19 has already killed 59 MTA employees and a handful of SEPTA and NJ Transit workers as well.
While some of these agencies have received government funding to help them through the crisis, transit in general could face an enormous uphill battle whenever the US finally emerges from the pandemic. Automakers are pulling out all the stops to keep sales up, offering 0 percent financing and delaying payments, while gasoline prices are at historic lows thanks in large part to a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia. The longer the pandemic stretches on, the more people might either adjust to working from home or lose their jobs altogether, potentially reducing demand.
So honk away, operators. The next few months, and possibly years, could very well only get more difficult for transit workers. The least we can do for them is offer up a soundtrack of support.