'There are people who have to get to work': bus drivers working through pandemic
More cleaning and fewer passengers just some of the steps transit operators taking to make buses safer
Public transit isn't normally associated with personal space. But since the province declared a state of emergency and asked people to stay home as much as possible, transit operators have been taking steps to allow riders and drivers enough physical distance to stay safe and help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Codiac Transpo in Moncton, Fredericton Transit and Saint John Transit have all increased cleaning inside buses, limited the number of passengers who can be inside a bus at one time and are asking riders to enter and exit through the back doors, unless the passenger has a mobility issue.
Grant Logan, Saint John Transit bus driver and president of Local 1182, Amalgamated Transit Union said working during the pandemic is causing anxiety for many drivers.
"This is all new to everybody, nobody really knows what to do, where to go about with this, it's very, very trying, it really is," said Logan.
"But there are people who have to get to work and that's why we're out here."
Logan said union members feel supported by their employers and feel safety is being taken seriously.
"It's a day to day basis they're changing stuff as they go along," he said.
Isabelle Leblanc said Moncton's bus drivers received extra safety training this week because they are expected to help people with mobility issues get on and off the bus, which sometimes means direct contact.
"It's a service we provide, Codiac Transpo was deemed an essential service at this time so we are going to help everyone that we can by doing so in the safest manner possible."
She said drivers have hand sanitizer and wear gloves. Masks are available for those who want one.
"They are probably the municipal employees that are closest to the public at this time because there is an interaction with some passengers," Leblanc said.
Codiac Transpo is decreasing the number of people allowed on a bus at any time to six, plus a driver. Saint John and Fredericton Transit both allow nine people on a bus plus a driver.
After New Brunswick's chief medical officer recommended people stay two metres apart, Moncton's buses were roped off in an effort to keep people apart, but Leblanc said the rope will be removed and duct tape will be used to mark which seats shouldn't be sat in.
Codiac Transpo will not run on Sundays starting this weekend, and is reducing its routes.
Fredericton Transit is reducing its hours of operation to allow for more cleaning.
Saint John Transit has cancelled its airport run because of self isolation rules for travellers, but otherwise is maintaining its normal schedule.
None of the transit operators are charging fares. All say bus travel is only supposed to be used by people who need it at this time.
- An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Grant Logan was a member of CUPE. In fact, Logan is a member of the Amalgamated Transit Union.Mar 27, 2020 8:05 PM AT