One of the biggest hurdles to getting back to so-called “normalcy” is public transit. How can all those people that need to get to work, school and everything ride the bus or train safely while in close quarters where social distancing is hard? The Government of Ontario might have some direction in this specific area of municipal affairs.
On Thursday, the Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney released a series of guidelines meant for public transit systems across Ontario. Based on directives developed by Metrolinx for GO trains and buses, the guidelines provide “consistent, clear and practical information that transit agencies can use to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep Ontarians moving safely,” according to Mulroney.
The guidelines are not the same as rules, but the Government calls them the “best practices and tips” to help stop the spread of the pandemic. Mostly common sense, the recommendations include face coverings, physical barriers between drivers and passengers, putting physical markers between seats, and frequently cleaning and disinfecting of the buses, trains, stations, and frequently-touched surfaces.
“People must continue to exercise caution when on public transit because physical distancing will be a challenge,” said Minister of Health Christine Elliott in a statement. “I urge everyone to follow our public health guidelines. They may seem simple, but they are effective in helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19. And if you are worried you have the virus or have been in contact with someone who has the virus, please get tested.”
You can read the list of recommendations for transit agencies and passengers here.
It’s previously been reported that Guelph Transit is recommending that people taking the bus should wear a mask or face-covering, but they are not making them mandatory. The City of Toronto, meanwhile, is taking a different direction as the TTC is going to demand that all of their passengers where masks.
Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner endorsed the move, but advised that the transit needs to make sure that they’re not denying anyone service while they’re making sure everyone’s safe.
“Our public transit systems are adapting to a new reality and they must do what’s right to protect public health,” he said in a statement. “Having back-up masks at TTC stations is essential so that no one is denied access, and we must provide flexibility for young children and those with medical conditions.”
The City of Toronto, and many areas in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area, where among the regions in Ontario that have not been cleared to begin Stage 2 of the economic re-opening. That decision may be reconsidered in Monday’s press conference at Queen’s Park.
In Guelph, next week’s COVID-19 response meeting of City Council will recommend that the City of Guelph start charging transit fares again on July 6 if ServiceGuelph locations can be re-opened safely.