OTTAWA -- OC Transpo says since they began cracking down on mandatory mask use on buses and trains, seven customers have been fined for not wearing a mask.

OC Transpo's "Operation Mask Up" began Oct. 9. The two-week blitz was initially meant to give written warnings to people who were not wearing masks without a valid medical exemption, but switched to fines on Oct. 13.

At Wednesday's Transit Commission meeting, commissioners heard that between Oct. 9 and Oct. 18, seven fines were handed out and 15 customers were denied access to the transit system for not wearing a mask. Twenty-five written warnings were handed out.

OC Transpo says 23 customers without masks had valid exemptions.

In addition, 454 customers were told to adjust their masks because they were being worn improperly.

Masks have been mandatory on OC Transpo since June 15, but staff have focused largely on education before the mask blitz began on Oct. 9.

Ridership reached pandemic peak in September, still well below pre-pandemic levels

The number of customers actually using OC Transpo continues to be low, but appears to be slowly recovering.

Ridership in September was at 30 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, the highest it's been since transit use cratered in March when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

"This obviously reflects the large number of people who are working from home and learning from home and not traveling to universities or colleges," said Pat Scrimgeour, OC Transpo's director of customer systems. "As more customers return, we'll make more adjustments as necessary."

Ridership fell to historically low levels in March and April before beginning to slowly recover over the summer months and into the fall, Scrimgeour said.