TransLink and B.C. Transit make masks mandatory for passengers on SkyTrain, buses, and all transit vehicles

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      If you don't have a mask and take the SkyTrain or other forms of public transit in Metro Vancouver or across British Columbia, now's the time to get one.

      As part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, TransLink announced on August 5 that all passengers on public transit will be required to wear non-medical masks or face coverings as of August 24.

      Today (August 6), B.C. Transit followed suit, making face coverings on all its buses mandatory also from August 24 onward.

      TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond explained in a news release that many transit users have asked for face coverings to be made mandatory. 

      “Physical distancing is not always going to be possible on transit, particularly once more riders return to the system,” Desmond stated. “Customer confidence is key to rebuilding ridership in the context of this pandemic and we believe this step is important to bring many of our riders back.” 

      Those who have underlying medical conditions, disabilities, persons unable to wear or remove a mask without assistance, and children five years and younger will be exempt from TransLink's requirement, and can request a TransLink-branded card (available at Compass Customer Service Centres at Stadium-Chinatown and Waterfront stations) to indicate their exemption.

      B.C. Transit stated that children under the age of 5 and those who cannot wear one for health reasons are exempt.

      In addition, TransLink stated that employees working behind physical barriers or areas for employees only, and police, employees, or first responders in an emergency are also exempt.

      B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has previously stated several times (including at a daily B.C. briefing on July 16) that everyone should wear a mask on transit as physical distancing may not be always possible. She had also previously stated it was up to TransLink as to whether or not to make it a requirement for passengers.

      “TransLink’s decision to make masks mandatory on their vehicles will help make transit safer for passengers, and we can make it safer for our fellow passengers when we wear a mask,” Henry stated in a news release.

      In the first few weeks of this requirement, TransLink’s main focus will be on awareness and education of the policy. However, transit police will be able to enforce the policy.

      Although many jurisdictions in Canada and the U.S. have made masks mandatory in public spaces, Henry has said that while she is not currently considering doing so in B.C., she may do so according to circumstances. Meanwhile, campaigns against mask-wearing has resulted in misinformation being circulated that many health experts, including Henry, have denounced or debunked while several studies also support the wearing of masks to reduce transmission of the coronavirus. 

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.