A range of new health safety protocols for both passengers and maintenance are being rolled out for Metro Vancouver’s public transit system, now that BC has signalled the restart of its economy, which is expected to lead to an increase in ridership.
TransLink announced this morning passengers will see changes over the coming weeks that are designed to improve cleanliness, create space where possible, and enhance personal health safety. This adds to the measures the public transit authority took since the start of the pandemic two months ago, according to a release.
On SkyTrain, attendants will limit fare gate access at busy stations to help manage the number of passengers entering the system. Some stations will have a maximum of two entrance fare gates at station entry points, while other fares will be set to exit only. These fare gate directions will be monitored and adjusted by attendants as needed.
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All passengers are asked to queue behind fare gates while maintaining the proper physical distancing.
New two-metre spaced decals will be installed on the SkyTrain platforms to indicate where passengers should wait until their train arrives. Passengers are being asked to wait behind the line of decals for disembarking passengers to clear before boarding.
Decals will also be installed at some station entranceways and bus stops to help guide physical distancing.
Passengers are reminded to avoid travelling on transit if they feel sick, use non-medical masks or face coverings when waiting or onboard transit, travel outside of peak times if possible, and allow more time for their commutes.
“Public Health and WorkSafeBC are working with transit agencies to ensure all reasonable steps are being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, however, it’s clear that maintaining a safe physical distance may not be possible in every situation,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer of BC, in a statement.
“We recommend all passengers consider wearing a face covering while using public transit, especially during those instances where physical distancing may not be possible. We also ask the public to be patient during this challenging transition period and we are grateful to British Columbia’s transit agencies for doing everything possible to protect the public during these changing times.”
Earlier this week, TransLink announced it had restored the usual operating hours for SeaBus, restored most of April’s bus service reductions, and increased SkyTrain capacity. By next week, Expo and Millennium lines will be at 100% normal service levels, while Canada Line will be at 90%.
The closer-to-normal service levels on public transit and the cancellation of the May 18 round of steep service cuts will allow passengers to better practice physical distancing. These restored service levels are made possible by emergency operating funding from the provincial government.
On buses, front-door boarding and fare collection will resume on June 1, after temporary vinyl shields are installed on buses to protect drivers. The capacity restrictions on buses — 50% seated capacity, no standing capacity — will remain until further notice.
For its enhanced maintenance measures, TransLink says it will deploy cleaning “pit crews” to disinfect SkyTrain cars at high traffic stations, increase bus and SeaBus disinfecting sprays to twice per week in addition to daily cleaning schedules, and maintain daily cleaning and disinfecting schedules on SkyTrain, West Coast Express, and HandyDART.
Cleaning procedures will particularly target poles, seats, ceilings, handles, windows, sills, and all other high-touch surfaces.
“Thousands of essential workers have relied on transit every day during the pandemic and many of our customers will return over the coming weeks and months,” said TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond in a statement.
“We’re committed to keep our system running and making it widely available to the people of Metro Vancouver as they go back to work, to school, and to moving around the region. Our Safe Operating Action Plan is meant to make transit as safe as possible and asks our customers to help out by keeping themselves and their fellow passengers safer.”