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As students go back to school, Calgary transit union prepares for increase in ridership

Click to play video 'As students go back to school, Calgary transit union prepares for increase in ridership' As students go back to school, Calgary transit union prepares for increase in ridership
WATCH: Tuesday marked Day 1 for many students returning to using Calgary Transit. Carolyn Kury de Castillo has more on concerns the transit union is raising about all those students getting back on trains and buses.

Mask use has become the norm on Calgary buses and trains in the wake of the pandemic. In fact the city says compliance is sitting at 95 per cent now.

“It has been great so far.  The public has responded really well,” said Calgary transit acting director Russell Davies on Tuesday.

The head of union representing Calgary Transit workers agrees compliance is great during the day but is concerned that mask use drops at night.

“In the evening it seems like the masks drop off literally and there was concern expressed from our members that during the night a lot of people aren’t wearing them,” said Mike Mahar, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 583.

Calgary Transit staff have handed out a quarter of a million masks since June and they will be focusing their efforts on school routes now.

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Read more: Coronavirus: 430 Calgary Transit employees laid off as ridership drops during pandemic

More buses and trains will be in operation in September.

Mahar said on Tuesday that 65 operators and 22 maintenance workers have been recalled out of the 430 people who were laid off in May.

Click to play video 'Calgary Transit replaces nearly 100 workers with contractors for bus service and cleaning' Calgary Transit replaces nearly 100 workers with contractors for bus service and cleaning
Calgary Transit replaces nearly 100 workers with contractors for bus service and cleaning

Davies expects that ridership will increase in September but isn’t sure by how much.

“We have to plan for that and then scale accordingly. That’s part of the problem, we just don’t know right now. The expectation as children go back to school, adults go back to work as well. So we’re expecting the downtown rush to be a pinch point as it was previously,” Davies said.

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Read more: Calgary Transit to lift COVID-19 seat restrictions on buses, CTrains

Mahar said bus drivers are told to limit their vehicles to 75 per cent capacity which equates to a full seated load.  But he said that could be tricky when large numbers of students start piling on.

“If a driver pulls up and there are 50  students standing at a bus stop and they start piling on it’s very difficult for that operator to say ‘OK you stop here now,'” Mahar said.

“They just keep getting on.  They are students, they all want to get going. They all want to hang around with their friends. And if they don’t have enough vehicles there’s no question they will crowd those buses.”

Davies said ridership will be monitored and service adjusted accordingly. He said next Tuesday will be the real test for Calgary Transit as schools all go back to regular schedules.

Click to play video 'Calgary Transit to lift COVID-19 seat restrictions on buses, CTrains' Calgary Transit to lift COVID-19 seat restrictions on buses, CTrains
Calgary Transit to lift COVID-19 seat restrictions on buses, CTrains