OTTAWA -- Everyone riding on OC Transpo buses, Para Transpo vehicles and the O-Train now needs to wear a face mask to board.

Starting today, OC Transpo says it's mandatory for riders to wear a cloth mask when entering transit stations and on board buses, trains, Para Transpo minibuses and contracted taxis.

Also starting today, front door boarding resumes for passengers on buses and the first car on the O-Train.  OC Transpo has installed protective shields at the operator cab on buses to separate drivers from passengers.

OC Transpo is implementing several measures to help limit the spread of COVID-19 as ridership increases due to the relaxing of the COVID-19 restrictions and reopening of businesses.

Mandatory masks

OC Transpo is the first transit service in Canada to implement the mandatory face mask policy for riders.

Under the policy, all customers are required to wear cloth masks or equivalent face coverings in transit stations and on buses, trains, Para Transpo minibuses and contracted taxis.

OC Transpo says young children and people who have a disability or medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask will not be required to wear one.

The transit service will not fine riders for refusing to wear a mask, instead focusing on educating riders about the importance of wearing one.

"What we'll be doing is helping them to understand why they should be wearing a mask, help them to understand how they can get a mask," said Pat Scrimgeour, Director of Transit Customer Service and Planning.

"For those people who have a medical condition or a disability that prevents them from wearing a mask, we certainly understand that and won't be requiring that."

Scrimgeour says advertising has been placed on buses, the O-Train and in stations to inform riders about the mandatory face mask policy, and explain why people are urged to wear masks on public transit.

All OC Transpo staff have received training on the face mask policy.

In a memo to Council last week, Transportation Services General Manager John Manconi said the training sets out the expectations of the mandatory mask policy.

OC Transpo will:

  • Focus on education and information
  • Remind customers of the requirement to wear a mask
  • Take every customer at their word, if they say they cannot wear a mask

OC Transpo will not:

  • Deny service or entry to the system to any customer who is not wearing a mask
  • Confront or argue with customers who refuse to wear a mask
  • Detain or fine customers who refuse to wear a mask

Distribution of masks

OC Transpo has 200,000 disposable masks to hand out to customers this week as the new mandatory face covering policy begins.

Scrimgeour says the masks should carry OC Transpo through the first week, and the transit service is hopeful all riders will have a mask.

The United Way East Ontario will be selling masks at some transit stations beginning in early July.

Front Door Boarding on buses and trains

Starting today, OC Transpo will allow passengers to board through the front doors of all buses and through the door nearest the operator cab on Confederation Line trains.

The Transit Service prohibited front door boarding in March to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Passengers paying with cash will now be required to board at the front of the bus. If you have a Presto card or U-Pass, you can board at the back doors of articulated and double-decker buses and tap your card there.

Temporary barriers have been installed on the operator cabs on 95 per cent of OC Transpo conventional buses. OC Transpo says the installations are necessary to support the safe reintroduction of front door boarding.

Scrimgeour tells that the shields will provide a layer of protection for operators from "any droplets that come from customers that aren't wearing masks when they board."

Once all riders are wearing masks, Scrimgeour says the shields will be an "extra layer of protection" for everyone.

OC Transpo is asking all customers to exit the buses at the rear doors if they can.

Para Transpo

Para Transpo operators will continue to wear surgical masks and face shields while transporting riders around Ottawa.

The Transit Service says all Para Transpo trips will continue to be limited to one customer per trip, as long as ridership levels are low enough to accommodate all customers.

Hand Sanitizer Dispensers

OC Transpo says hand sanitizer dispensers have been installed at 31 major bus rapid transit stations and all 13 stations along the Confederation Line.