The City of Edmonton will begin collecting transit fares again next month.
The announcement was made by interim city manager Adam Laughlin during Thursday’s weekly emergency advisory committee meeting. Edmonton’s local state of emergency was also extended for another week.
“We are still in the grip of a public health emergency,” Mayor Don Iveson said. “And while we have seen some great and compliant behaviour modelled here in Edmonton, compliance isn’t’ where we’d like it to be.
“As long as we don’t have access to a vaccine, Edmontonians remain at risk.”
Laughlin said the Edmonton Transit Service will resume fare collection on buses, LRT and DATS services. Front-door boarding on buses will also resume on June 15.
“Until further notice, transit service will continue on the current schedule,” he said.
Laughlin said operators will continue to wear masks and use buses that have driver safety shields. Enhanced cleaning of buses and trains will continue, as will physical distancing requirements.
“We would strongly encourage folks to wear masks when they’re out in public and that includes on transit,” Laughlin said.
While ETS ridership dropped about 75 per cent in April 2020 versus April 2019, Laughlin said ridership has steadily increased since Phase 1 of the relaunch began two weeks ago.
From June 15-30, Laughlin said riders can use their March, April or July transit passes, cash, tickets, day passes or transfers as payment.
From July 1-31, April and July passes will be accepted, as well as cash, tickets, transfers and day passes.
The city is working to ensure sales outlets will have July passes available for purchase by mid-June.
Transit fares were suspended when the local state of emergency was declared on March 20.
City warns about lack of physical distancing at skate parks, basketball courts
Since reopening skate parks and basketball courts last week, Laughlin said the city has dealt with several enforcement issues, mainly around a lack of physical distancing and group gathering.
“Physical distancing requirements have been ignored,” Laughlin said.
As of Monday, Laughlin said 311 had received about 120 public complaints. As of Monday, 251 warnings were issued at parks, playgrounds and sports courts, while 142 warnings were issued at city skate parks.
“Unfortunately, ongoing noncompliance at some skate parks and basketball courts have prompted us to introduce new restrictions.
“We want to send a message to users that compliance with public health orders is mandatory; it’s not a suggestion.”
Because of this, the city announced weekend closures of two basketball courts and two skate parks. Beginning this weekend, Florence Hallock and Blue Quill basketball courts will be closed. Castle Downs and McKernan skate parks will be closed.
“Where we do have fencing, we would utilize that,” Laughlin said. “Where we don’t, we’d be bringing out the tape again… and they’ll subsequently be monitored by peace officers.”
Laughlin said the city is not against closing all skate parks and basketball courts if the public health regulations are not followed. He explained if the weekend closures result in people gathering at other skate parks and courts who still don’t follow the rules, the city would consider closing all of those kinds of amenities.
He added that under the public health order, police officers, peace officers and public health officials have the power to enforce physical distancing and mass gathering rules.
“If they do see noncompliance of physical distancing and that’s not your family or your cohort… they can enforce that.”
Also Thursday, Laughlin recommended the cancellation of summer camps for the 2020 season.
“This was a difficult and disappointing conclusion to come to,” he said.
The city took into account that other outdoor play spaces are open, including some parks and playgrounds. The city’s financial situation also played a role in the decision.
“We believe that the demand will be low and given the difficulties for social distancing for children, we cannot anticipate a way we can make summer camps economically viable.”
Earlier this month, the city announced eased restrictions when it comes to outdoor patio space. So far, Laughlin said 37 businesses have registered to expand their outdoor patio spaces, the majority of which are located downtown and in Old Strathcona.
So far, 36 businesses have registered for outdoor patio space, while one has registered for outdoor retail space.
The city also added more shared street locations to help with physical distancing.
As of Thursday, the parking lane and north-side travel lane will be closed along Whyte Avenue (82 Avenue), from Gateway Boulevard to 105 Street. 102 Street from Whyte Avenue to the alley north of 81 Avenue will be converted to one-way southbound for vehicles to support temporary sidewalk cafes and retail expansions.
Starting Friday, additional shared streets will open along 119 Avenue between 106 Street Service Road to 101 Street, and 101 Street from 118 Avenue to 124 Avenue.
E-scooters coming back
The city will issue licences to two e-scooter vendors after working with Alberta Health Services and the e-scooter companies on contract terms.
The plan is a phased reintroduction, effective June 1, that is structured to evolve into full operation. If essential criteria are met, the companies can expand operations.
Additional safety measures are being put in place to ensure public safety, including enhanced daily cleaning of e-scooters, the addition of public health messaging on the vendor’s app and on the e-scooters.
“The agreement will be cancelled if e-scooters are found to be a source of COVID-19 transmission, if users or the company are not adhering to cleaning protocols, or if use of e-scooters is judged to be a hazard to pedestrians or vehicles,” the city said Thursday in a news release.
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