Metro Vancouver Transit Police are reminding the public to don face coverings on transit in the Lower Mainland.
If they don't wear a face covering, unmasked individuals can be issued a hefty fine.
Sergeant Clint Hampton, Media Relations Officer with the Metro Vancouver Transit Police, tells Vancouver Is Awesome in a phone interview that transit police have stepped up enforcement regarding the mandatory mask policy on transit.
Over the past two weeks, Hampton says the transit police's enforcement team has been on the SkyTrain and buses to ensure riders follow the rule.
"Now, if people aren't, we give them the opportunity to leave transit," he explains.
And while transit police focused on education during the first weeks of the mask policy, Hampton says the enforcement team has stepped up its approach.
"It's now time to step it up to enforcement."
"Up until recently we were really focused on education--which still plays a large role--but I think most people are educated enough on this now and realize that it's mandatory," he describes.
"And so that's why we kind of made that step to go, 'Okay, we've taken the time to educate the public it's now time to step it up to enforcement.'"
And how much can you be penalized for not following the mask policy?
"In certain circumstances, they can be issued a fine up to $150," says Hampton.
So far, Hampton isn't aware of any tickets that have been issued. Regardless, he reiterates that transit police are taking enforcement seriously.
"It is mandatory on transit. It's not just for that person's safety but the safety of everyone else that is on transit."
Why aren't bus drivers checking unmasked riders for exemption cards?
TransLink Spokesperson Jill Drews told V.I.A. in a previous email that the exemption cards have never actually been required for people with underlying medical conditions.
"I can understand why this might be confusing, but there are several reasons why bus operators are not checking for exemption cards," she writes.
"The exemption cards have never been required for those who feel they are not physically able to wear a mask. This is why they aren’t being checked anywhere on the system.
"We heard from some stakeholders that they would feel more comfortable with some sort of proof to show in the event of a disagreement over masks. The cards are meant as a reminder that there are exemptions to the policy. In fact, in places including London and Toronto, the exemption cards are available to anyone who wants to download the image and print it."
Drews notes that TransLink's spot checks show 95% of customers are wearing masks and that the policy "seems quite successful."
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