The Clean Transit Initiative

Faith Varwig
October
2020

Not since 9/11 have I seen an entire industry re-invent itself. The COVID-19 pandemic has surely changed life as we know it: travel suspended, businesses halted, gatherings cancelled, economy jolted, and our daily social lives disrupted. As a member of the architecture, engineering, and construction community that serves clients in some of the most heavily affected industries (aviation, cruise lines, healthcare and government), Faith Group understands more than ever what is at stake as we help our clients navigate this unprecedented current climate.


Faith Varwig
As the founding principal for Faith Group, Faith Varwig has more than 30 years of experience as a leader in airport security and technology planning/design, including policy and procedure development to support complex business processes. Her work for airports and airlines includes virtually every type of facility in the aerodrome environment. She is a past board member of the Airport Consultants Council and a past steering group member of the Information Technology and Public Safety and Security committees for Airports Council International. 

Like many firms, our offices closed on March 17, 2020, and on March 18th we began to think about how COVID-19 will change the transportation industry forever. With little direction and clarity from the CDC, and each airport being impacted by regional and local heath authority mandates, we focused on developing a baseline of policies, procedures, and technologies to guide our clients toward a balanced solution. Our Clean Transit Initiative, launched with support from Atkins, Carlyle Group, and Schneider Electric, focuses on providing clients with an end-to-end solution combining technology, policy, procedure, and process to reduce overall risk and restore confidence back into the travel experience.

 The overall approach is based on turning CDC recommendations into actionable initiatives. Let’s face it, in times of crisis, “silver bullets” don’t exist. Technology innovations are flooding the market with claims that they mitigate the pandemic risks. The reality is that it takes a combination of technology and policy changes, at all levels of an organization, to be effective and make a real difference.

With that in mind, our team began developing multiple solutions, in a layered approach, to address the pressing need to reduce the risk that infectious diseases pose to public wellness. A few core areas include:

  • Gap Analysis – Understanding where internal risks exist is the first step to developing a comprehensive solution. Our automated survey and risk-based assessment tool allows mitigation efforts to be “valued” to determine the most effective areas to spend precious financial resources.
  • Thermal Screening – While asymptomatic carriers can still spread COVID-19, many people do develop a fever. Studies show that an estimated 46% of cases would not be detected by thermal screening—meaning more than half would be detected, which is still a substantial number. In a recent intercept survey of Delta passengers at Los Angeles International Airport, 87% said that thermal screening made them feel safer flying, and 77% indicated it would make them more likely to travel again. A word of caution, though: Not all thermal screening technology is created equal, and there are a lot of unreliable products entering the market.
  • Touchless Travel –This initiative has been on the roadmap for several years but has not been a high priority for most airports and airlines. COVID-19 has certainly changed that and has brought to light the need to look for technical solutions that can work in harmony to enable end-to-end solutions. This approach includes virtual queuing, facial recognition at key locations, additional self-service baggage drop systems in departures lobbies, and the development of remote baggage drop and screening.
  • Contact Tracing – While the CDC and many local and state health officials require some form of contact tracing to re-open, deploying an effective, automated solution becomes difficult. Video analytics may be the obvious choice since most airports already have robust video systems, but it is not effective without identity information to match with guest pictures. Privacy concerns would also need to be vetted with the airport/airline legal teams. 
  • Air Filtration – If there has been one area that has risen to the top of the list as being important in mitigating risk, it is having the appropriate filtration and airflow in indoor spaces. Recent studies have confirmed that coronavirus particles can hang in the air for up to three hours. Faith Group recently completed an assessment of Customs and Border Protection, baggage claim and retail spaces at a large international airport utilizing the facility’s existing system design to effectively model viral propagation, resulting in the calculation of system Contamination Containment Efficiency (CCE). 

For decades, flying has been the safest form of travel. COVID-19 IS A SAFETY ISSUE! Healthcare institutions and airports around the world have already approved and implemented screening in a layered approach. U.S. airports should do the same. As we move forward through the second half of 2020, the aviation industry must push for a uniform approach to address the pandemic and restore the public’s confidence in travel once again.

 

Faith Varwig
As the founding principal for Faith Group, Faith Varwig has more than
30 years of experience as a leader in airport security and technology planning/design, including policy and procedure development to support complex business processes. Her work for airports and airlines includes virtually every type of facility in the aerodrome environment. She is a past board member of the Airport Consultants Council and a past steering group member of the Information Technology and Public Safety and Security committees for Airports Council International. 

 

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