Reducing Covid Risks while Commuting: Repurposing Tour Buses

Every city is working hard to meet the challenge of reducing covid risks while commuting. The on-demand bus company Snap may have found one solution: repurposing open-top tour buses as commuting vehicles.

The buses will be familiar to most urban residents: the double-decker buses with an open-air top that promise “hop on, hop off” convenience for tourists to explore the city. They’re useful for a lightening-round tour of a city’s key historic sites. Snap, however, is offering them in a new context during the pandemic.

As Bloomberg CityLab reports: “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 … 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.”

According to Snap, here’s “How it works on the day”:

  • You’ll be picked up by a thoroughly sanitised, executive coach. No-one will have sat in your seat before you do (unlike on the train).
  • Boarding is ticketless via a driver app. No contact required.
  • There’ll be full social distancing on board: just 12 people on a 50 seat coach
  • You’ll go direct to work: no tube trains
  • If someone reports a subsequent infection, we can SMS message everyone they’ve travelled with
  • After the journey in, the coach will be sanitised again for the journey home

City buses and their related infrastructure have proved to be magnificent assets for new use. The buses have converted into portable showers and sanitation units for the homeless, and bus stops have been used as light therapy units to boost public mental health. Using an existing an existing network for the purpose of reducing covid risks while commuting is another example of the multifunctional capabilities of public transportation infrastructure.


If repurposing urban assets for new use interests you, you’ll love the Reprogramming the City book which contains 41 of the world’s most innovative examples of urban repurposing from 17 countries. Want to learn how to unlock the potential of your own city? Then the Reprogramming the City Toolkit is for you!

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