OC Transpo says blocking off seats to encourage physical distancing 'not a necessary measure'

An east-bound OTrain pulls in to Rideau Station on the Confederation Line of the Light Rail Transit system in Ottawa, ON.

OC Transpo believes passengers have enough room to practice physical distancing on most buses and the O-Train lines without having to block off seats during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The transit service has no plans to follow other transit services across Canada and block off seats to separate riders on buses and the rail lines.

The Toronto Transit Commission has announced that “to allow safe physical distancing for customers who need to travel”, it has begun to block off seats on buses, streetcars and subways.

In Brockville, the city has revised the seat configuration on buses to allow for maximum social distancing by transit users. A maximum of eight riders are allowed on a bus at one time.

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Director of Transit Operations Jim Greer says “customer volumes are currently low, so in most cases customers are able to practice physical distancing on buses and trains.”

“At this time, blocking off seats is not a necessary measure.”

OC Transpo has said ridership is down 70 to 90 per cent since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Greer adds OC Transpo has "made several adjustments to the service across the network to avoid overcrowding and to allow customers and employees to maintain a safe physical distance."

"We are actively monitoring the service and making adjustments where possible."

In March, OC Transpo implemented rear-door boarding for customers on all conventional buses, except for those with accessibility or cooperative seating requirements.

The doors closest to operator cabs on the Confederation Line are also closed to riders.

Greer says “we continue to listen to feedback from our customers and staff to make adjustments when necessary, with our primary goal to provide safe transportation services to our customers.”

Meantime, commuters on the Confederation Line will soon have access to hand sanitizer.

Greer says OC Transpo is in “in the process of installing hand sanitizer dispensers at Line 1 stations.”