Mandatory masks. Blocked off seats. Increased capacity.
These are some of the changes public transit riders in New Brunswick’s three largest cities can expect beginning the week of June 29.
The biggest change for Moncton’s Codiac Transpo, Fredericton Transit, and Saint John Transit, which have been working together throughout the pandemic, is that masks will be required across all three systems. (Children under two and those with particular medical conditions will be exempt). Prior to this announcement, mask wearing had been encouraged by all systems.
“Things are open now and demand is increasing,” said Austin Henderson, a spokesperson for Codiac Transpo. “But we need our passengers to do their part too in order to increase service.”
Changes in service across all three systems from here on in will be tied to compliance with mask wearing, said Henderson. Mask use will be monitored and if compliance is poor, service may be reduced. But if passengers are wearing masks, service levels are expected to increase, he said.
The transit systems differ in terms of fare collection. While early in the pandemic, all three stopped charging fares to limit any driver contact with passengers, some buses have had Plexiglass shields installed so drivers can start collecting fares again, while others still offer free ridership.
Saint John Transit and Fredericton Transit have resumed collecting fares, but Codiac Transpo has not yet had shields installed, so will not be collecting fares until some time later in the summer, said Henderson, adding that passengers will be given ample notice of the change.
Seating capacity will be increased to up to 50 per cent across the systems. Earlier in the pandemic, seating capacity had been at six or nine passengers per vehicle, he said.
Physical distancing will still be important and the different transit systems are blocking off seats in different ways to help passengers do so, said Henderson. At Codiac Transpo, passengers should expect to sit in the window seats while the aisle seats are blocked off, which will allow more room between those passing through the aisles and sitting passengers, he said.
Passengers are also being encouraged to bring and use hand sanitizer and vehicles are being regularly sanitized.
“Things are constantly changing,” said Henderson. But other transit systems are watching how we have been able to collaborate and share and implement ideas here in New Brunswick, he said, calling the sharing of effective practices a positive thing.
By Clara Pasieka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Telegraph-Journal