October 1, 2020

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Transit adds mask education to duties

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press</p><p>As of August, facemasks are required on all city transit buses.</p>

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press

As of August, facemasks are required on all city transit buses.

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Winnipeg Transit officials have hit the road to offer face-mask education, approaching riders to remind them about facial coverings.

Since Aug. 29, all Winnipeg Transit riders, along with visitors to city buildings, have been required to wear masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19. And since the mask mandate took effect, Transit inspectors have added mask education to their daily duties, according to the service.

"We have different opportunities in which we can do that, whether that is simple interactions at bus stops or on the sidewalk or at our terminals or whether we actually attend to buses... Our inspectors also ride the buses (at times) as well, so information is also provided there," said Winnipeg Transit director Greg Ewankiw.

A rider who fails to wear a mask on a bus can receive a $100 ticket, but no fines have been issued so far, Ewankiw said.

He said the focus remains on providing as much education as possible.

"We’re fairly early on in the requirement to have masks on when you’re riding Transit... Your phased-in approach is information and education (first). Some people may not know how to wear a mask or when they need to wear a mask, so we provide that education for them," said Ewankiw.

He said inspector counts on buses have found about 92 per cent of riders are wearing masks.

Ewankiw said one of the city’s key goals is to ensure bus drivers aren’t left to enforce the facial-covering mandate on their buses.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505, which represents Winnipeg bus drivers, has lobbied against having the operators enforce the mask rule. The union fears that enforcement would trigger an increase in assaults on drivers.

James Van Gerwen, vice-president of ATU 1505, said he wasn’t aware of how often transit officials have educated Winnipeggers about mask use on local streets and buses, adding the union has received little information about the practice.

As a driver, Van Gerwen said he’s seen about 10 per cent of riders board buses without a facial covering, so he believes some type of crackdown is still needed.

"Every time somebody gets on without a mask, it kind of upsets me... Personally, I think maybe we’ve got to start looking into possibly doing a crackdown, even if it’s taking (riders) off the bus and giving them a mask," he said.

During the city's public works committee meeting Wednesday, Transit officials said the education effort has been broad. That included doling out 1,100 disposable masks so far, including at Transit service centres and during street inspections.

Meanwhile, Transit reported the pandemic continues to reduce its ridership level to around half of what it would usually be for this time of year.


Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.

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