Thursday, September 10, 2020

Almost universal mask wearing made me feel safe taking transit. Enforcement may be needed for those that still refuse to wear a mask.

When COVID-19 pandemic measures were first put in place in mid-March, the company that I work for shifted to work-from-home. This put an end to my daily commute between Langley City and Vancouver.

When COVID-19 restrictions lifted, our company switched to a “your choice” work program, meaning that people could work at the office or work from home. 90% of the company is still working from home most of the time, including myself. Once a month, I head to the office.

I’m still taking transit to get to the office, and I’ve noticed some major changes over the past five months.

Main Street SkyTrain Station. Select image to enlarge.

The biggest change has been the steady return of people to transit in Metro Vancouver. This is backed up by Apple’s Mobility Trends and Google’s Mobility Report which shows that transit ridership is now down between 30~40% of pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels.

During May, transit ridership was down around 80% of pre-COVID-19 levels, so it was easy to stay two metres away from others on the bus or train.

TransLink encouraged people to wear face coverings/masks back in June. Unfortunately, this resulted in only around half of people taking transit wearing masks, even as ridership continued to increase.

I was feeling uncomfortable taking transit because the SkyTrain and 502/3 were standing room only in August. I was happy that TransLink switched to a mandatory mask policy at the end of that month.

Yesterday, I took transit into Downtown Vancouver. I was happy that during the morning, everyone on the bus and SkyTrain was wearing a mask. I was disappointed that on the afternoon trip back to Langley, there were two people in the SkyTrain and two people on my bus that did not wear a mask.

TransLink noted that they are seeing 92% compliance with mask wearing on transit. This is what I also observed.

I’m impressed that virtually all people in Metro Vancouver are doing the right thing to help keep other people healthy by wearing a mask on transit with limited to no enforcement. This keeps people safe, and makes people feel safe. With everyone wearing a mask, I’ve never felt safer from a health perspective while on transit.

Unfortunately, there is still a small group of people that will not do the right thing, even something simple like wearing a mask to protect others from COVID-19. As transit ridership continues to pick up, enforcement may need to occur.

While I’ve reduced my usage of transit, it is because I no longer have to commute to Downtown Vancouver as often. While taking transit, I now feel safe because I know that virtually everyone is doing their part to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

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