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Expert: rebuilding trust in transit during pandemic may depend on risks you're willing to take

Last Updated May 24, 2020 at 1:55 pm PDT

FILE - A passenger wears a facemask on a bus Friday May 15, 2020 in Montreal. The Quebec government announced it will give $6 million to buy masks for transit users and in harder-hit areas of the city.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

A transportation consultant says ridership in Vancouver is already up in the first week of economic recovery

The transportation planning consultant says comfort levels will vary for people reluctant to get on a bus

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Now that anyone riding transit in Metro Vancouver is being encouraged to wear a mask, will more people start commuting again?

A transportation consultant who used to work in the planning department at TransLink says that will depend on your personal comfort level.

David Cooper, the principal of Leading Mobility Consulting, says hopping on a bus could be no riskier than ordering a ride-hailing service during the economic recovery process.

“They’ve also been hit quite hard by this.  Look at taxis or the Ubers and Lyfts.  At the end of the day, you’re entering into an enclosed space.  It really goes back to what’s in your best interests in terms of your health and that’s no different than when you’d take a trip before the pandemic. You know, you’d look at things such as cost and travel time.”

He says numbers have already started to improve in Vancouver with ridership up 16 per cent over the past week and he believes TransLink is doing a good job following provincial health guidelines aimed at keeping everyone safe.

“I’ve been taking public transit and I feel comfortable.  It’s really a personal conversation of risk, like, we all have our own individual health considerations and we all have things that we do in our day-to-day lives.”

Cooper adds comfort levels will vary for people reluctant to get on a bus –even if everyone’s face is covered.

“Part of the messaging with wearing a mask now is you know you’re protecting yourself, but you’re also protecting everyone else that’s around you…. Transit will always be there and available for the community to use for the essential functions of going to work, going to school, going to medical appointments and supporting our society.  It is something that people will respond to and make those choices on, but it is individual choice and people are slowly starting to come back.”

Cooper, who now divides his time between Vancouver and Edmonton, has also worked on projects in Toronto and Calgary.