Strathcona County suspending transit fare collection over COVID-19 concerns

A file photo of a Strathcona County Transit bus. Global News

As part of its ongoing response to the escalating COVID-19 crisis, Strathcona County is temporarily suspending transit fare collection beginning Saturday “to further ensure the safety of transit operators.”

In a news release issued on Friday, county officials also said people getting onto transit buses will need to enter through the rear door.

Strathcona County also announced plans to reduce peak-hour transit service to half-hour service schedules on Tuesday because “ridership numbers have significantly decreased.”

However, county officials noted that “transit will monitor ridership closely to ensure ample buses are available to allow for social distancing on the buses.”

READ MORE: ‘We’ll fix this’: Edmonton mayor responds to overcrowding on transit after COVID-19 schedule changes

Click to play video: 'Tuesday morning transit troubles lead to new service changes in Edmonton after COVID-19 reduction'
Tuesday morning transit troubles lead to new service changes in Edmonton after COVID-19 reduction

On Tuesday, mobility bus service will be limited to essential travel,” the county said.

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“Mobility bus service requests that are not essential will be directed to Family and Community Services or other agencies as appropriate,” officials said. “Transit encourages all riders, including Mobility Bus riders, to only take transit for essential travel.”

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The county added that it continues to have its buses subjected to “deeper and more frequent cleaning procedures.”

The announcement came shortly after the City of Edmonton revealed it was suspending transit fare collection as it declared a local state of emergency because of the coronavrius pandemic. Edmonton officials said the action on transit fares was taken to increase people’s ability to exercise social distancing because fares don’t have to change hands as a result.

READ MORE: Edmonton declares local state of emergency over COVID-19, suspends some fees for citizens 

On Friday evening, Strathcona County said its Emergency Management Agency “continues to action contingency planning and response to COVID-19.”

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“Strathcona County’s director of emergency management is receiving information directly from the province,” county officials said.

“At this time, Strathcona County’s community response does not require declaring a state of local emergency.”

COVID-19 is being blamed for one death in Alberta so far by health officials. On Friday, the province announced it now has 195 confirmed cases of the illness, with 43 of those in the Edmonton zone.

READ MORE: Alberta has 195 COVID-19 cases; some child care centres to reopen for essential service workers

“Strathcona County’s emergency social services is planning and working with the community to ensure basic needs for the most vulnerable people,” officials said. “The Family and Community Services call line — 780-464-4044 — will extend its hours starting Saturday, March 21. Operating hours (are) 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Friday, and Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.”

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In order to reduce the potential for large gatherings, Strathcona County said it has taken steps that include closing outdoor rinks, off-leash dog parks and the Strathcona Wilderness Centre.

For more information on Strathcona County’s COVID-19 response, click here.

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