Saskatoon Transit director Jim McDonald said he expects 500 to 1,000 masks being handed out on city buses every day as the city moves ahead with a requirement for transit users to wear non-medical masks.
“We’re at about 35 per cent of people wearing masks in the city of Saskatoon on our buses. We expect there’s an automatic following, we’re also expecting a herd effect to take place, people will see others wearing masks, so they will wear masks because they see this as the new normal,” McDonald said Tuesday morning.
On Monday, City Council unanimously voted in favour of making non-medical masks mandatory on city transit buses, and recommending face coverings for anyone using city-run facilities like leisure centres and City Hall.
The city will spend $19,250 to provide masks for transit users for two weeks starting Sept. 1. McDonald said this requirements for masks on buses means buses can increase ridership. Up until this point transit buses only carried 15 passengers at a time which meant some were being turned away. With the mask policy, buses will be able to hold 39 passengers.
Access Transit will also be able to accommodate six passengers with wheelchairs, up from two.
McDonald said no one will be turned away for not wearing a mask on a transit bus, however transit drivers will track those passengers who refuse. If the problem persists, McDonald said transit supervisors will take steps to educate people on the importance of masks.
“We have a button (drivers) can push for people not wearing masks, it will GPS tag the location. So if we find a trend where that happens time and time again we’ll be able to pull video, see what that looks like and have a transit supervisor on the location to try and have a conversation with those individuals about the benefits of wearing masks,” McDonald said. “If it escalates beyond that, police will get called but we hope it won’t get escalated.”
McDonald is asking passengers not to get involved with confrontations and to keep away from individuals who choose not to wear masks. He also asks individuals not to judge people for not wearing masks and they may not be able to do so because of underlying medical reasons.
“Having a mandatory mask requirement on transit buses is going to be hard on some people, it’s also going to cause other people different kinds of reactions. We ask that you bear with us, this is for everybody’s protection.”