Metro Vancouver’s public transit authority is temporarily implementing free public transit across the entire bus network in response to the escalating COVID-19 pandemic.
TransLink has announced that the free transit measures across all bus services in the region will begin Friday, March 20, the same day that a rear-door bus boarding policy will go into effect to help promote social distancing between drivers and passengers.
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This is being implemented as cash fares cannot be collected on rear doors and some buses are not equipped with Compass Card readers at that entrance. Passengers in need of mobility assistance can still use the front doors and accessible ramp if needed.
Regular fares will still apply on other services, including all three SkyTrain lines, SeaBus, and West Coast Express.
In addition to rear-door bus boarding, TransLink is also implementing a ban on sitting close to drivers on certain buses, and accelerating the installation of bus driver shields on buses.
On SeaBus, passengers will be unable to use the seats near the crew operating spaces.
TransLink has also launched an educational campaign to promote good hygiene and ask passengers to provide extra space between fellow passengers and transit staff.
As of earlier this month, the public transit authority indicated it has initiated enhanced cleaning and disinfecting measures for its buses, trains, and ferries.
Stations and bus loops are being cleaned at least one daily, including a disinfectant wipe down of stair and escalator handrails, elevator buttons, door handles, fare gates, Compass vending machines, garbage handles, benches, seats, emergency cabinets, and emergency phones.
SkyTrain cars are cleaned overnight and poles, seats, ceilings, handles, windows, sills, and other surfaces are wiped down with disinfectants.
Buses, SeaBus vessels, and HandyDART are being sprayed with a disinfectant every evening, in addition to daily cleaning schedules. West Coast Express trains are also disinfected and cleaned every evening.
As of Tuesday, March 17, ridership across the entire TransLink network totalled 684,000 boardings — down by 52% compared to the same day in 2019. Bus boardings on this day fell by 48%, while Expo and Millennium lines dropped by 54%, Canada Line decreased by 59%, SeaBus fell by 69%, and West Coast Express was down by 70%.
Ridership gradually dropped over the past week, as concerns over COVID-19 spiked and calls for social distancing increased, with much of the population — both workers and students — remaining at home.
Ridership was at 843,000 on Monday, March 16, representing a 38% drop, following the decrease of 29% to 552,000 boardings on Sunday, March 15, the drop of 23% to 726,000 boardings on Saturday, March 14, the drop of 17% to 1.213 million boarding on Friday, March 13, and the 7% drop to 1.312 million boardings on Thursday, March 12.
Similar free transit and rear-door bus boarding measures were also announced today by BC Transit for its Victoria and Nanaimo service areas.
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With coronavirus on the rise, the BC Ministry of Health is reminding individuals who attend events and large gatherings to monitor their health for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. And if you’re not feeling well, they recommend staying home at this time. Also, due to unexpected cancellations, please check the event you plan to attend is still taking place. Keep up with COVID-19 news here.