Are Pests a Serious Concern for Public Transport?

Jack Shaw Posted on: 2024-02-20 15:15:00 Viewer: 2,215 Comments: 0 Country: India City: New Delhi

Are Pests a Serious Concern for Public Transport?

Pest encounters are some of the strangest dangers of taking public transport. In some corners of the world, ordinary commuters unwillingly coexist with nature’s nastiest and face various health threats for sitting in the wrong seat on any given day. Even worse, it’s becoming a common occurrence in the West — where public service and health standards are usually head and shoulders above the rest of the world.

Governments and communities respond to these unhygienic passengers and road users differently. Many local authorities vehemently deny outbreaks and insist that vermin sightings are isolated. Some riders have become desensitized and embraced the presence of the critters they share on the streets, trains, buses, and airports. However, commuters beware — riding public transport in the United States, France, the United Kingdom, and Australia uninsured may be a more considerable risk than initially thought.

Empire State of Infestation

New York City is infamous for its subway rodents. The Big Apple hasn’t dethroned Chicago for being America’s rattiest — a title the Second City has held since 2015 — but the four-legged rulers of the city have become a fact of life for its dwellers. The rodent infestation in the NYC subway system has gotten so bad even government officials have appointed a rat czar to address the infestation.

Furthermore, the transport app Transit was curious about this long-standing pesky issue’s severity and pervasiveness. To put its finger on the pulse of the public, it launched the NYC Subway Pest Detector and communal rat alerts to encourage metro riders to participate in its rat census. The move was a rousing success, as both features were user favorites.

Transit’s data collection method was as academic as a YouTube Community poll, but it still produced fascinating results. It crowned 191 Street as the most rat-infested station and revealed mice were visible 40% of the time. When asked about Transit’s findings, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had no comment, stating it had no idea of the survey’s methodology.

Bugs on European Buses and Metros

Roaches and bedbugs invaded French and British transport systems in 2023. In Marseille, cockroaches occupied 20 buses, requiring multiple fumigation sessions. Meanwhile, the driver’s seats and cabins of the southern French city’s metro were bedbug hotspots. These insects sidelined a few train operators after getting bitten and some even brought home the bugs.

Across the English Channel, bus drivers in London shared images of crawling roaches in their vehicles with the media in early 2024. In October 2023, bedbugs crawled on a Tube passenger’s leg on tape. Alarmed British hotel owners feared the critters came from France, where a bedbug outbreak occurred.

In-Flight Disappointment

Heathrow Airport in London made headlines in July of 2021 after bee and wasp nests kept one Virgin Atlantic and seven British Airways planes from taking off. These insect colonies blocked the pitot tubes, which were responsible for measuring fluid flow velocity.

The incident caused significant inconvenience to passengers, but it was a blessing in disguise. Airport officials said unreliable speed indication was no laughing matter — missing the blockages and allowing the aircraft to take flight as planned would have endangered lives.

Intercepted Irritants

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agriculture Specialists (CBPAS) routinely catch pests in air cargo. In May 2022, the authorities discovered 630 live insect larvae in a parcel containing plastic flowers from Kenya at the John F. Kennedy International Airport. Historically, CBPAS has seized about 4,500 pests, averting potential agricultural disasters.

In June 2023, the federal border protection agency at the Detroit Metro Airport found the remains of Khapra beetles in some rice from India. Five years prior, a woman from Iraq hadn’t passed inspection for carrying seeds infested by this invasive species. Many pests can become disinterested in a host when there’s no food or water source, but this brown, winged beetle can survive without sustenance for extended periods. It bides its time until it finds unprocessed stored grains, oilseeds and dried food items to chow down voraciously on.

Oz's Avian Annoyance

Australians have love-hate relationships with their aggressive native birds. On one hand, these creatures are a cultural symbol — on the other, they’re public nuisances.

In 2022, a common myna repeatedly halted motorists at a busy Sydney intersection after nesting in traffic lights. Government workers had to remove the stubborn and persistent bird’s nests several times in a few weeks.

In the same year, hundreds of ibis camped on the side of a Gold Coast highway during the breeding season. These pests aren’t as intimidating and social as cassowaries, but they can be as dangerous. They have no regard for motorists, flying and walking in front of oncoming traffic as they please. Interacting with fast-moving vehicles endangers themselves and the commuters unlucky enough to cross their path.

Smoke Out the Real Pests in Public Transport

Pest infestations in public transportation systems across the world are old news. Nothing has changed after many years because the authorities tasked with keeping buses, trains and airports hygienic haven’t taken this matter as seriously as they should. They must cleanse their priorities before implementing a robust pest control policy for the benefit of all stakeholders.

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