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TTC riders wary of public transit until COVID-19 vaccine available, health measures enhanced: study

Some riders not willing to use TTC until vaccine is discovered
WATCH ABOVE: Researchers at the University of Toronto polled more than 2,700 TTC riders who say they don’t plan on using public transit until a COVID-19 vaccine is made available. As Morganne Campbell reports, the future of public transit may look much different following the pandemic.

A recent study out of the University of Toronto has found that nearly three-quarters of TTC riders have reservations about hopping on a bus, subway or streetcar amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We don’t know if that will hold true because the same survey respondents also mostly said they can’t envision themselves avoiding TTC for 18 months,” said Matthew Palm, a postdoctoral fellow and adjunct lecturer at the U of T.

“We know there’s been a huge drop-off of riders and we know those riders are apprehensive of coming back.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: 5 decommissioned TTC buses converted to Toronto Paramedics transport vehicles

Of the more than 2,700 people polled, 87 per cent of respondents say they will be willing to start riding by the time the are vaccinated and 24 per cent will hold off until then.

A large number of those polled are calling on the TTC to limit the number of passengers and make wearing a mask mandatory.

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“It is evidence that a lot of people are going to be adapting their behaviour and it’s really important we do this in a sustainable way, if we do find a massive shift from transit to auto travel, for example,” added Steven Farber, a transportation geographer who participated in the research alongside Palm.

“We’re only going to worsen our environmental conditions, only worsen inequality between those who can and cannot get around, only worsen congestion. So this is really the key moment where the city needs to come together.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: TTC announces layoffs as its forced to adapt amid COVID-19 pandemic

Between 200,000 and 300,000 people are riding the TTC since the pandemic began, compared to 1.5 million prior to COVID-19. Routes have been adjusted and studies are underway as to how the transit authority can offer service safely and effectively while adhering to physical distancing rules.

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“Fifteen is sort of the number we’ve got in terms of when a bus starts to get a bit full and where a bus might, for example, bypass a stop and only drop people off, so those are some of the sorts of things,” says Stuart Green, a spokesperson for the transit authority.

“We’re going to be working really closely with the city’s re-opening table.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Canadian transit providers plan safeguards against COVID-19 outbreak

Ridership is down by 85 per cent since emergency measures were put in place by both the city and province.

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“I’m lucky because I do live pretty central but I don’t see myself going on the TTC anytime soon. I think when a vaccine is ready and available I would consider it, but definitely not anytime sooner,” hairstylist Michelle Hicks said.

World health professionals and Health Canada have stated discovering a vaccine for COVID-19 could take upwards of 18 months.