VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — After a frustrating ride home from work on a crowded Vancouver bus where very few passengers were wearing masks, Kelsey Rae started a petition urging TransLink and the province to step-up COVID-19 related precautions.
Rae would like to see masks made mandatory, enforcement of social distancing, and enforcement of the 2/3 capacity limit on buses.
She’s never started an online petition before, but after calling and sending feedback to TransLink Sunday she decided to try another approach.
“Yesterday I was coming home from work. I take a bus and it was 6 p.m., so pretty much rush hour, and the bus was way overcrowded. There was no way to even try and social distance, and most of the riders were not wearing masks. I just felt really unsafe the whole ride home, and I got pretty angry. So that’s why I started this petition.”
Rae says people appear to have become complacent since TransLink eased some restrictions in June.
“It seems pretty much back to normal,” she says.
“I think because we did really great at the start everyone’s kind of forgetting about it, and acting like ‘Oh we conquered this.’ But really, it’s still out there.”
Rae says she understands making masks mandatory might add an enforcement burden on TransLink staff who would have to deal with people who are resistant.
“I think there’s some fear about people who don’t want to wear masks getting angry, or violent or causing disruption,” she says.
“But honestly I think there’s a lot less of those people then there are people who actually want to be safe.”
She thinks there is also a possibility for TransLink to get creative and encouraging mask-wearing.
“Maybe they could make it free for people who are wearing masks or do something else to incentivize people?”
TransLink launched a campaign urging people to wear masks, but has responded to online comments from riders by explaining a Provincial Health Order would be required to make them mandatory. The transit authority has introduced a number of health and safety measures amid the pandemic.
— TransLink BC (@TransLink) July 2, 2020
The petition also addresses Dr. Bonnie Henry, Mayor Kennedy Stewart, and Vancouver Coastal Health.
The provincial health officer implored people to wear face coverings last week.
“I absolutely think everybody on transit should be wearing a mask – everybody who can,” she said during a press conference. “If you are taking transit right now, you should be wearing a face covering unless there’s a very valid reason you can’t.”
TransLink says it continues to recommend customers wear masks — a recommendation “consistent with British Columbia’s approach” — while on transit and waiting for transit if physical distancing isn’t possible.
The transit company points to B.C.’s public health officer who has repeatedly said the province had no plans to make mask-wearing mandatory.
In Toronto, masks are mandatory due to a city bylaw. The same is true in Ottawa and Hamilton. In Montreal, masks are mandatory on transit due to a province-wide order requiring them in all public, indoor places.
Calgary city council began debating mandatory masks Monday. Mayor Naheed Nenshi has said he is in favour of making them mandatory in some situations, including on Calgary Transit.