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City of Hamilton introduces passenger occupancy limits on HSR buses

Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger has appealed to residents to use the HSR for essential travel only, during almost all of his daily updates into the city's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger has appealed to residents to use the HSR for essential travel only, during almost all of his daily updates into the city's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. City of Hamilton

The city is introducing a passenger occupancy limit on HSR buses in an effort to protect both drivers and passengers from community spread of COVID-19.

Starting Friday, all regular-sized buses will only allow a maximum of 10 riders at a time, and articulated buses will only allow 15.

Paul Johnson, director of the city’s emergency operations centre, said this measure is being introduced to enforce social distancing to limit the potential of everyone on the bus being infected by community spread of the virus.

“There will be pass-bys,” said Johnson during the city’s town hall on Wednesday night. “There will be buses that drive by when they are at this capacity.”

Also starting on Friday, all passengers – including those with mobility devices – will be required to enter the bus via the rear door.

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READ MORE: Hamilton mayor calls for an end to joy rides on HSR amid coronavirus pandemic

Johnson said he understands that this will create problems, and encourages anyone who may use a mobility device to travel accompanied by someone who can assist them on and off the bus.

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“That’s going to create some concern, I understand, and some challenges. We’re trying to balance with HSR how they continue to operate and how we continue to deliver service, with the ability of people to actually use this transit for what it’s recommended — which is essential trips only.”

The city will be putting additional buses and drivers on the heaviest routes at the busiest times in an effort to limit how often residents are forced to wait for a second — or potentially third — bus, but Johnson acknowledges that it’s far from “business as usual”.

“Our entire goal here is to keep transit going,” said Johnson.

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The announcement from the city comes after the union representing Hamilton’s transit drivers called for more measures to protect those drivers, including introducing a passenger limit on city buses.

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Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 107 President Eric Tuck said he has “trouble sleeping at night”, because 30 to 35 people are piling on 40-foot HSR buses at a time when they are being ordered to stay six feet apart.

“We’re seeing the same passengers over and over again, climbing onto buses, going down to Jackson Square, going down to the pier to do some fishing,” said Tuck. “Stuff that is absolutely unnecessary.”

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He also expressed his worry that joyriders are taking away seats that are needed by essential service providers, such as home support workers, and “putting them at risk.”

Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger has been appealing to residents to use the HSR for essential travel only, during almost all of his daily updates about the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two weeks.

Although the union had also been calling for HSR drivers to be supplied with personal protective equipment, including masks, that request was denied. Tuck said that “was expected” due to limited supplies.