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  • Seoul Announces How to Use Public Transportation while Practicing the “Distancing in Daily Life” Campaign

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    Seoul has prepared measures for using public transportation while practicing the “distancing in daily life” campaign for the safety of public transportation users resuming their normal lives. The key points of the measures include the dispersion of passengers through the prediction of congestion times, a strict order to wear masks to prevent the spread of the infectious disease, and the operation of additional trains to ease congestion.

    As the number of public transportation users plummeted after the outbreak of COVID-19 but then started gradually increasing in March, Seoul has plans to prepare tailored measures for each means of transportation based on the analysis and prediction of congestion. These measures will be implemented starting on May 13 (Wed.) when the degree of congestion is expected to surge due to the opening of schools.

    According to the analysis, it is predicted that the congestion level of public transportation will be recovered to that before COVID-19 by June
    1 According to the analysis, it is predicted that the congestion level of public transportation will be recovered to that before COVID-19 by June
    – Steady increase starting the first week of March…congestion control required for the policy shift towards “distancing in daily life”

    According to the analysis of the change in the number of public transportation users before and after the outbreak of COVID-19, the number during the first week of March, when the Seoul Metropolitan Government first launched “Let’s Take a Break from Social Life” campaign to prevent the spread of the virus, was the lowest, amounting to 34.5% of that of January 2020.

    However, after recording the lowest number during the first week of March, the number of passengers started showing a steady increase in April, with the level of congestion increasing as a result.

    The municipal government has analyzed the congestion level of the subway and intra-city buses based on the usage data of transportation cards, concluding that the current level amounts to 80-90% of the level before the outbreak of COVID-19. With the increasing number of passengers, the level of congestion is also rising. It is expected that if the congestion level continues to increase, the level will reach that before the outbreak of the contagious disease by June.

    Based on analyses of the congestion levels, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has formulated measures to make public transportation safe while practicing the “distancing in daily life” to establish a preemptive response system in line with the switch of the central government’s policy that will lead to the opening of schools.

    Special measures for each level of subway congestion; strong recommendation to masks; operation of additional trains and special control of congested stations; making passengers voluntarily disperse through congestion prediction system
    2 Special measures for each level of subway congestion; strong recommendation to masks; operation of additional trains and special control of congested stations; making passengers voluntarily disperse through congestion prediction system

    Seoul and Seoul Metro have prepared the “Guidelines to Control the Subway Congestion” to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 that might be caused by the increase in subway users. The city and the corporation will execute special measures to secure physical distance between passengers according to the level of congestion.

    Guidelines to Control Subway Congestion (proposed)

    Guidelines to Control Subway Congestion (proposed)
    Level of Congestion Citizen Experience Control Measures
    Uncrowded (Blue)
    Less than 80%
    Passengers mostly seated & uncrowded passages ▪ Safety guards keep order on platforms
    Normal (Green)
    80-130%
    Passengers moving comfortably ▪ Safety guards encourage passengers to space out
    Caution (Yellow)
    130-150%
    Contact between passengers when moving ▪ Provision of congestion information, passengers encouraged to space out
    ▪ Strong recommendation to wear masks
    Congested 1 (Red)
    150-170%
    Passengers unable to move in the train ▪ Measures taken according to caution level
    ▪ Restriction of passengers riding train without a mask
    ▪ Introduction of trains with ATO (automatic train operation) system during commuting hours, maintenance of normal intervals between trains
    ▪ Active control of congestion level by adding 13 trains for emergency
    Congested 2 (Red)
    More than 170%
    ▪ Same measures for “Congested 1” level, restriction of passengers riding train without a mask
    ▪ Support for officials to work at major congested stations to guide and control passengers at the gate
    ▪ Nonstop operation at major congested sections (depending on the decision of station officials, control room, or engine driver)

    The “forecast of congestion levels” will be provided using various media such as broadcasting and social media, through announcements in subway stations and trains, and on display panels, with information related to the subway congestion during each time period and by subway line.

    ○ Weekly congestion information will be offered on social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), portals, Seoul Metro official website (www.seoulmetro.co.kr), and mobile apps (Ddota (Ride Again) urban railway). Daily congestion information will also be provided via TV and radio, portals, Seoul Metro official website, and mobile apps (Ddota (Ride Again) urban railway), as well as through announcements in subway stations and trains.

    Congestion information provided on BITs (bus information terminals), encouragement for dispersion of passengers Measures prepared for easing congestion by shortening intervals between buses and introducing buses in reserve; revision of the terms of transportation to enforce “mask-wearing in an emergency”
    3 Congestion information provided on BITs (bus information terminals), encouragement for dispersion of passengers Measures prepared for easing congestion by shortening intervals between buses and introducing buses in reserve; revision of the terms of transportation to enforce “mask-wearing in an emergency”

    The Seoul Metropolitan Government will also prevent the risk of COVID-19 contagion by monitoring fluctuations in the number of passengers on congested bus lines and implementing measures to ease congestion according to the situation by shortening the intervals between buses and operating more buses in reserve.

    Additionally, information will be provided for passengers to learn about congestion levels through various media. The bus information terminals will show congestion levels to make passengers refrain from taking buses on congested lines and related information will also be offered on the TOPIS app and the Seoul Public Transportation official website (http://bus.go.kr).

    The terms of bus transportation will be revised to enforce the wearing of masks by passengers following an advance notice in order to prevent the spread of the contagious disease in emergencies. The city will also encourage passengers to voluntarily participate in activities to prevent the infection of COVID-19, such as keeping a seat empty between passengers, refraining from talking or making phone calls, and refraining from using buses during commuting hours by individuals in high-risk groups for infectious diseases.

    Congestion information provided on BITs (bus information terminals), encouragement for dispersion of passengers Measures prepared for easing congestion by shortening intervals between buses and introducing buses in reserve; revision of the terms of transportation to enforce “mask-wearing in an emergency”
    4 Maintaining the alert level at “Red” (the highest) for disinfection; executing intensive disinfection of the interior of trains and public facilities
    Encouraging citizens to voluntarily follow the 10 Rules of Using Public Transportation while Practicing the Distancing in Daily Life campaign

    The Seoul Metropolitan Government will keep the alert level at “Red” (the highest) to maintain reinforced disinfections for safe public transportation, even if the city’s policies are shifting towards “distancing in daily life.”

    Still, citizens should understand information about congestion levels by time and subway line in advance to decrease the risk of contagion while voluntarily refraining from using public transportation during congested hours and taking the next train when needed. It is highly recommended that citizens take part in the campaign, and the high-risk groups for infectious diseases are especially advised to refrain from using public transportation during rush hour.

    The Seoul Metropolitan Government has prepared “10 Rules for Using Public Transportation while Practicing the Distancing in Daily Life Campaign” to create a voluntary culture of the citizens for the safe use of public transportation.

    < 10 Rules for Using Public Transportation While Practicing the Distancing in Daily Life Campaign >


    ① Wear a mask when using public transportation
    ② Observe coughing etiquette while using public transportation
    ③ Use hand sanitizer
    ④ Avoid congestion hours, use the next train
    ⑤ Keep the seat next to you empty
    ⑥ Maintain a distance between others while waiting for a train
    ⑦ Maintain a distance between others when getting on and off
    ⑧ Do not talk or make phone calls
    ⑨ Ventilate often
    ⑩ Do not use public transportation when you have a fever or cough