Opinion: Burnaby transit riders are ignoring mask request in large numbers

Chris Campbell

With more people heading back to work as B.C. begins to slowly reopen its economy, TransLink says it is looking to grow a culture around wearing face masks on public transit.

“We are recommending that customers wear face coverings while on transit and while waiting for transit,” said spokesperson Ben Murphy. “What we really want to do is grow this culture around wearing a face covering while on transit."

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Sadly, the mask “culture” is being ignored by many in Burnaby, according to multiple transit riders who have contacted me in recent days.

“I took the SkyTrain for a medical appointment yesterday and even though there is a sign at the station asking riders to wear a mask, I estimated that only about 1/3 did,” wrote Joana, who didn’t want her last name used. “Even up to now, people are still not getting it. Unless the government is making wearing mask mandatory and enforces it vigorously by fining those who don't, nothing would help.”

Things are apparently not much better on Burnaby buses.

“I was riding near Brentwood and I was the only rider on the bus wearing a mask,” said Tina. “It really is frustrating.

The mask recommendation is one of several new measures announced by TransLink, as the transit authority starts to ramp up service levels in response to the province entering Phase 2 of its Restart Plan. In recent weeks, TransLink saw an 83% decrease in ridership due to the coronavirus pandemic, and has cut or reduced service across the region. 

The messaging also comes after Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said that face masks are now recommended in situations where it’s not possible to maintain physical distancing, such as in stores on or transit.

Murphy said TransLink will be installing signage encouraging the use of masks, and the benefits of face coverings, in stations and transit vehicles. The transit authority is also looking at partnerships with some groups to potentially be able to distribute face masks to those who don’t have their own, said Murphy.

TransLink will also be limiting gate access at its busiest stations, to help manage the number of people on the SkyTrain system – which includes the Canada Line.

Those stations will have a maximum of two entrance fare gates, while the other fare gates will be set to exit only. Down the line, said Murphy, the system could expand to less busy stations. Decals have also been installed to help people maintain two metres of physical distance while waiting in line.

  • With files from Kirsten Clarke, the Richmond News

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