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Masks now mandatory on Metro Vancouver transit

Last Updated Aug 24, 2020 at 7:53 am PDT

Summary

TransLink is prioritizing education over enforcement as it rolls out the policy

Children under five, those unable to wear a mask due to disability, some other exempt from required face coverings

The union representing drivers has directed members not to confront those who aren't wearing masks

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Make sure you have a mask with you if you plan to take transit — they’re now required on all Metro Vancouver buses, SkyTrains, and SeaBus as of Monday.

TransLink is hopeful commuters will cooperate with the mandatory mask policy. Through the weekend, workers installed thousands of decals and signs throughout the system, a move that’s in line with their initial approach to prioritize education over enforcement.

Spokesperson Ben Murphy says other  cities — like Toronto — have seen 95 per cent compliance with mandatory masking without any “active enforcement.”

“We would hope to see similar types of take up here, but we’ll have to wait and see,” he says.

“We’ve already seen anecdotally that more people are wearing masks on transit, so we are encouraged to see that it appears at least more people are getting the message.”

Transit police have the authority to enforce the policy but for the first few weeks, riders will be reminded rather than reprimanded.

“We’ll have to closely monitor over the next couple of weeks to see what the take-up rates are, of course we do have the option of enforcement via transit police but I think people will do the right thing,” Murphy says.

He’s optimistic that masks and face coverings will quickly become normalized as “part of transit culture.”

“If we can get a large amount of people, most people, the vast majority of people on transit wearing face coverings or masks it makes it a safer experience for everyone, and that’s the key point of this policy.”

Children under five; people with underlying medical conditions or who are otherwise unable to wear a mask; and workers separated from the public by barriers are exempt from the requirement to wear a face covering.

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The union representing transit drivers has been clear that their members are not willing to enforce this policy. 

“Our concerns have never changed, which is that the drivers should be focussed on driving the bus and enforcement — if there is any enforcement — be left to the appropriate authorities,” says Gavin McGarrigle, western regional director of Unifor.

“We’ve been assured that the drivers are not going to be responsible for enforcing the policy, and we’re working with the company to talk about things like extra security, police presence, things like that — if they do go down that road of enforcement.”

McGarrigle says members are supportive of any policy that is meant to increase safety on transit, so long as their safety isn’t compromised.

“In terms of drivers directly confronting customers, we don’t expect to see that in fact we’re strongly encouraging drivers not to do that,” he says.

“There have been, long before the pandemic, assaults on drivers and we don’t want to see that.”

With files from Lasia Kretzel