Unlike some commentators, it isn’t my habit every time a government official proposes something that might be good for you to denounce it as a creeping incursion of the nanny state.
And so it is with Bay Coun. Alex Cullen’s suggestion, inspired by nursing graduate Jenn St.
Jean, to equip OC Transpo buses and stations with hand sanitizers. It’s a simple, sensible idea, like the bike racks mounted on buses.
Sanitizers are not only common sights in hospitals and doctor’s offices, but also appearing on cruise ships, schools, offices and malls. It’s probably a sign we’re increasingly a nation of bacteriophobes, even when we’re not being whipped into a panic by influenza A (H1N1), also known as swine flu, SARS or whichever fashionable bug is in the headlines.
While I’m not a particular worrier about germs, one doesn’t have to be a pathogen-obsessed Howard Hughes or Howie Mandel to be struck by the sheer number of micro-organisms riding the buses with us every day.
That’s the thing about public transportation: The public. We sneeze, snuffle and drip all winter, and when it’s not flu season, it’s allergy season.
And civil libertarians, or at least those who partake of public transit, can relax. Nobody’s going to make them wash up, although social pressure can sometimes build up around the sanitizers, and abstainers might have to get used to dirty looks from the cleaner-than-thou.
There are practical matters to consider, like the cost of equipping a thousand or so buses with dispensers, entirely justifiable in terms of public health, and just where on the bus they would go.
If they’re placed at the entrance, add a bottleneck at the sanitizer to the seemingly interminable time (only a couple of seconds, but they are looong seconds) it takes to dispense a transfer as people are trying to squeeze on behind you.
If they’re elsewhere on the bus, out of the driver’s line of sight, then some of our younger and/or drunker passengers will almost certainly be tempted to explore the comedic possibilities of large quantities of sanitizer gel applied to seats, floors, handrails, etc.
All the real clean freaks already travel with their own little bottle of Purell, but less germy buses might help rebuild ridership, which is down about 10 per cent since last winter’s strike.
Worse, a fare hike is scheduled for July, bringing the price of a bus trip ever closer to parity with a short cab ride.
At least, as we dig deeper into our pockets, our hands will be clean.