VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — TransLink will require passengers to wear non-medical masks or face coverings while onboard transit vehicles, as of Aug. 24.
The decision is meant to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19 as physical distancing is not always possible on transit.
People with underlying health conditions or disabilities, as well as children under five years old will be exempt.
“Physical distancing is not always going to be possible on transit, particularly once more riders return to the system,” TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond says of the new policy.
“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.”
— LizaYuzda (@LizaYuzda) August 6, 2020
Transit Police officers are to enforce the new policy, while new signs will outline it. TransLink will focus on education regarding the new policy into it is enforced.
Customers who are exempt will have the option to request a TransLink branded card, denoting such.
Exemptions for mandatory face-covering policy:
- 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.
B.C. health officials had been pushing for a mandatory masks policy for transit, although the union representing bus drivers had enforcement concerns.
“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,” says Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry.
“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.”
The new requirement for transit passengers to wear masks onboard buses is being welcomed by the union representing transit operators.
“With the proper precautions, we can have great public transit that minimizes public health risks,” says Jerry Dias, Unifor national president. “We have the upmost confidence in the Provincial Health Officer.”
.@gavinmcgarrigle tells @NEWS1130 he's pleased transit workers won't be asked to enforce mandatory mask use "We're always concerned about any kind of violence or threats of violence against our members. We certainly hope they'll pay close attention to any issues that come up." https://t.co/JrE39M45SP
— Marcella Bernardo (@Bernardo1130) August 6, 2020
Frontline employees may inform or remind customers to wear a face-covering when on-board transit vehicles, says TransLink.
Transit authorities confirmed that operators are not responsible for policing passengers’ mask use. Instead, signage at transit stops will notify passengers of the new requirement.
“Unifor members will continue to do their jobs safely and leave mask compliance to the common sense of the transit riding public, and if necessary, transit supervisors or the police,” says Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor regional director. “Thanks to anti-science conservatives, basic public health precautions have become politicized. No transit operator should have to risk their own safety confronting anti-mask crusaders.”
The mandatory mask policy is part of TransLink’s Safe Operating Action Plan, which included cleaning and sanitizing of transit vehicles and hubs, increases service levels, creating space between customers where possible, as well as handing out 15,000 free masks.