OTTAWA -- Transit riders in Ottawa will need to wear a face mask to board OC Transpo buses and the O-Train starting June 15.

Mandatory masks for passengers and staff is one of eight “health and safety measures” OC Transpo is implementing to reduce the risk of infection and keep customers and employees safe during the pandemic.  The plan will be presented to the Transit Commission during a special meeting on Monday.

“The Service Recovery Plan places the safety of our riders and employees first. The move to mandatory masks will be challenging, but necessary for passenger and employee safety,” said Allan Hubley, Transit Commission Chair.  

The report says, “As ridership increases with the reopening of the economy, it will not be possible to maintain physical distancing on buses and trains.”

Staff recommend that in keeping with Ottawa Public Health guidelines, OC Transpo make non-medical cloth masks or equivalent face coverings mandatory in all stations and on board all buses, trains, Para Transpo minibuses and Para Transpo vehicles.

The report says in the first week after June 15, when the use of face masks on transit becomes mandatory, OC Transpo will make a limited number of masks available for people entering the transit stations.

Other health and safety measures implemented by OC Transpo include:

  • Enhanced cleaning of buses, trains, and stations
  • Installation of barrier shields at operator cabs on buses
  • Masks and self-checking signs at all stations
  • Hand sanitizer dispensers at stations
  • Controlling the flow of buses into busy transfer stations
  • Touch-free fare payment
  • Increasing space onboard buses and trains

When face masks become mandatory on OC Transpo buses, the transit service will reinstate front-door boarding to allow more space for customers to practice physical distancing.

OC Transpo is currently operating on a Saturday schedule between Monday and Saturday due to low ridership. Transportation Services General Manager John Manconi told Council on Wednesday that ridership has started to increase over the last two weeks.

The current modified service will continue until June 27. The summer service will begin on Sunday, June 28, with all routes in service and operating the same route network that was in place from January to March 2020.

The report says OC Transpo plans to recover to normal fall service on August 30 to coincide with the start of the school year.

Supplying masks

Transit riders will be expected to supply and wear their own masks on OC Transpo buses and the O-Train.

The report says Ottawa’s Human Needs task team is working with Ottawa Public Health to identify supply chain opportunities for residents who need masks.

“For some groups of residents, who do not have access to a supply of masks, the city is arranging funding or a supply of masks to non-profit organizations,” staff say in the report for the Transit Commission.

Signs will be posted at transit stations to inform customers about the requirement to wear masks.

Additional costs

The report for the Transit Commission shows the costs associated with the additional health and safety measures on OC Transpo buses, the O-Train, stations, Para Transpo buses and accessible vehicles.

Staff estimate the monthly ongoing costs for enhanced cleaning, non-medical masks and other materials will be $950,000.

One-time costs to install “soft barriers” on OC Transpo buses and sanitizer dispensers in stations will be $325,000.

Staff say the costs will be funded using existing funds in the OC Transpo budget.