All customers will soon be required to wear non-medical masks or face coverings while on board both BC Transit and TransLink transit vehicles.
For TransLink, customers who are unable to wear face coverings due to an underlying medical condition or disability will be exempt from this policy and won’t be asked to wear a mask or face covering. These customers will have the option to request a TransLink branded card which notes they are exempt from wearing a face covering.
“Physical distancing is not always going to be possible on transit, particularly once more riders return to the system,” TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said.
“Customer confidence is key to rebuilding ridership in the context of this pandemic and we believe this step is important to bring many of our riders back. We’ve listened to transit users who want to see face coverings made mandatory on transit vehicles.”
The change comes into effect August 24.
The cards for exempt riders will be made available at Compass Customer Service Centres at Stadium-Chinatown and Waterfront Stations.
Transit Police will be able to enforce the face coverings rule on transit but the initial focus of this policy will be on awareness and education.
Desmond says bus drivers and SkyTrain operators will not be responsible enforcing the rule. Drivers can remind passengers to wear a mask but are not to deny entry for those not following the policy.
In Montreal and Toronto, where mask use is mandatory, Desmond says there is 90 per cent compliance without any enforcement. TransLinks says currently about 40 per cent of riders are wearing masks in Metro Vancouver.
“We have heard repeatedly that are customers are in favour of this policy. This policy is very much in line with other Canadian transit agencies,” Desmond said.
“Drivers are not enforcement agents. They are there for safety. They have a lot to attend to behind the wheel of a bus. We want to continue to educate riders what wearing a mask is in your best interest. It is not the bus drivers responsibility to enforce it. They do not have to do it. ”
Bus operators will not have to wear mask if they are behind the current barriers.
Desmond says the hope is ridership will go up with the new policy but it is unclear by how much.
“There is no science on that that we could predict,” Desmond said.
“I can say we have heard from many customers, and former customers, that they would feel a lot more comfortable if they knew everyone was wearing a mask. We inferred from that people would be more willing to come back.”
The plan has the support from the province’s top doctor.
“Transit is an important service for many British Columbians. TransLink’s decision to make masks mandatory on their vehicles will help make transit safer for passengers, and we can make it safer for our fellow passengers when we wear a mask,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said.
“Find one that’s comfortable and make time to get used to wearing them and taking them on and off as needed. Those of us who are able should be using masks on transit all the time. I do and I expect others to as well.”
BC Transit will be providing accommodations for children under the age of 5 and those that cannot wear a face covering for health reasons.
BC Transits says customers have indicated making the use of face coverings mandatory will create a more comfortable environment. The change will also come into effect August 24.
Exemptions for TransLink’s mandatory face-covering policy include:
• Anyone with an underlying medical condition or disability which inhibits the ability to wear a mask or face covering;
• Persons unable to place or remove a mask or face covering without assistance;
• Children under 5 years of age;
• Employees working behind a physical barrier or within areas designated for employees and not for public access;
• Police, employees, or first responders in an emergency.