Starting Tuesday, Aug. 4, Lethbridge Transit users will be asked to mask up when riding the bus.
The change comes as the city prepares to resume its regular scheduled routes and fares, after operating on a ride-by-reservation system since April.
On Friday, the head of Lethbridge Transit urged customers to consider the health and safety of their fellow riders.
“Please, please make sure you have the safeguards because COVID(-19) is here and the numbers are rising,” said Kevin Ponech, the city’s transit manager.
“If you don’t have a mask there will be masks available on each bus.”
Lethbridge is among a growing number of cities to implement mandatory face coverings on public transit. Similar rules in Calgary and Edmonton take effect Saturday.
Plexiglass barriers have been installed in Lethbridge buses to protect bus operators.
Officials said Friday that drivers will only have to wear a mask when outside of their protected drivers’ compartment.
“The COVID(-19) barrier based on AHS (Alberta Health Services) relaunch guidelines has indicated that if there is a barrier in place there’s no requirement for an operator to wear a mask,” said Travis Oberg, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 987.
Oberg added that efforts are ongoing with the city to improve circulation for the drivers’ compartments.
The union said it’s also pleased the responsibility of enforcing masks will not fall on transit operators, but it would like the city to take a harder line on transit customers who are not in compliance with the new rules.
“It should be simple if the passengers don’t have the mask when the bus arrives at a stop, they shouldn’t be being boarded, and if they refuse to put a mask on then they shouldn’t be allowed on the bus,” Oberg said.
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The city said Friday it will not refuse rides but will closely monitor the situation.
“If we start to see too many people that are coming without masks and unwilling to wear it then we will probably have to adjust how we’re providing the service,” Ponech said.
Masks will be taking effect on transit as the city continues to work out the details for making them mandatory in city-owned facilities too.
In a news release, the city said it expects to share an updated timeline for that sometime next week.