Why Winnipeg Transit says it would be difficult to enforce mask-wearing on buses

Published May 19, 2020 1:14 p.m. ET

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(CTV News file image of a Winnipeg Transit bus.)

WINNIPEG -- Winnipeg Transit said it would be difficult to enforce a rule that would make masks mandatory on buses.

According to Bjorn Radstrom, the City of Winnipeg’s manager of transit service development, the challenge would be getting someone to enforce the rule that a passenger without a mask would be left behind

“We certainly don’t want to be putting our operators in a situation where they’re going to be making those kinds of decisions because it can lead to some challenges for them on the buses, even for our inspectors,” he said on Tuesday at an Infrastructure, Renewal and Public Works committee meeting.

As of now, it’s recommended that Winnipeggers wear masks on public transit, but it is not mandatory.

“It’s really a passenger choice if they choose to wear a mask,” Radstrom said, suggesting the next step could be a “robust communications plan” regarding the recommendation to wear a mask.


Winnipeg Transit has been tracking ridership during the pandemic using automatic passenger counting and Peggo data.

It said ridership has been down 65 to 72 per cent depending on the week, compared to the same time last year. Currently, the number is hovering around 70 per cent below 2019’s ridership levels.

Transit has also been reviewing passenger loads through bus operator reports and spot checks by transit inspectors.

Bus operators have to make a report if there are more than 15 people on a bus.

“That doesn’t mean necessarily that 15 passengers is too many automatically, what it means is that’s just a threshold for reporting,” Radstrom said, noting the city dispatches additional service to areas where they see a repeated amount of higher passenger loads to facilitate physical distancing.

For example, on May 14, Winnipeg Transit received 52 reports from its operators of buses with more than 15 passengers, and consequently it put out 38 additional buses.

“We’re not just trying to find the needle in the haystack. We’re chasing the needle because it’s moving within the haystack,” Radstrom said.


As for the launch of the new Blue Line, Radstrom said it was a success with no operational issues.

“People in particular like the frequency, the service hours and the improvements in journey times,” he said, adding that people are also happy with the active transportation routes.

Though there have been some complaints about changes to routes during service hours, according to Winnipeg Transit, that was to be expected.

“It takes a bit of time to get used to the changes,” Radstrom said.

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