Halifax Transit is waiving its fares in order to distance passengers from bus drivers as the city attempts to curtail the spread of COVID-19.
The announcement came paired with new public transit restrictions, effective on Wednesday across the Halifax Regional Municipality.
“Changes in fare collection are in response to keeping the community safe from the spread of COVID-19, and are not intended to encourage increased use of transit services,” reads a statement released on Tuesday afternoon.
“Riders are asked to stay on buses and ferries for necessary trips only, and not to loiter.”
Apart from accessible ramp users, all passengers are now asked to use only the rear doors to board and exit buses, according to a news statement released by municipal government on Tuesday afternoon.
“When people go to the back door we don’t want them going up to the front door to drop cash in the fare box, so it’s really about maintaining that social separation,” explained Halifax Transit director Dave Reage at a press conference.
Boarding for ferries remains the same.
According to Halifax Transit, ridership had decreased by more than 43 per cent on its conventional bus service, 51 per cent on ferries and 67 per cent on Access-A-Buses since the COVID-19 crisis hit Nova Scotia.
While the service continues to run on a normal schedule, it has already restricted ridership to available seating on buses. All vehicles are also under a new, frequent high-touch cleaning regime.
To support the recommendations put forward by the federal government Tuesday, Halifax Transit ferries will be limited to 50 passengers per trip effective Wednesday.
To date, there are six presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia and one confirmed case.
The Halifax Regional Municipality has cancelled its next council meeting in response to the crisis and plans to manage its agenda items for that session virtually.
“We’ll let people know what we intend to do with council meetings,” said Mayor Mike Savage on Tuesday, repeating instructions for all municipal staffers to work from home wherever possible.
Municipal facilities, including community centres, libraries and arenas have also been closed.