Toronto

Mask transit: TTC, GO and taxis will still require face coverings after mandate lifts March 21

While face covering requirements will be lifted elsewhere on March 21, public transit is one of several settings in which the government will still require them until April 27.

Masks will be required on TTC until 'at least' April 27

Cliff Mushapaidze says it's time to end mask mandates, even on public transit. (Trevor Dunn/CBC)

Walking into the TTC's Main Street Station, Cliff Mushapaidze is putting on his face mask and looking forward to the day he won't have to.

"Get rid of them, man. You can't breathe. You can't even see if someone is smiling at you."

Mushapaidze wasn't smiling when he heard passengers will still need masks to ride public transit for a while longer. Although many experts say face coverings are effective in slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus in indoor settings, and some public health officials say it may be too soon to lift the mandates, he doesn't believe face masks are accomplishing enough to offset the inconvenience when he wears them.

"It's very hard to communicate," he said.

With the most recent wave of COVID-19 infections on the wane in much of the province, the Ontario government announced a significant shift in masking rules on Wednesday. While face covering requirements will be lifted elsewhere on March 21, public transit is one of several settings in which the government will still require them until April 27.

While the day mask mandates lift can't come soon enough for some transit riders, others don't mind masking up until the end of April. Kevin Herron is planning to do it even longer.

"I'm going to keep my mask on while I'm on the TTC probably for a while," he said after getting off the subway Wednesday.

"I do it more for other people than me. I'm not a big fan of masks out in public, but when I'm on TTC or in crowded places, I wear one," Herron said.

TTC requiring masks until 'at least' April 27

Face coverings will be required on all Toronto transit buses, subway trains, streetcars and stations until "at least" April 27, spokesperson Stuart Green tweeted on Wednesday. The TTC did not offer any further comment about its future plans for face covering requirements.

"Any changes in our policy will be publicly announced at an appropriate time," Green wrote. 

Masks will also be required beyond March 21 on GO Transit buses, trains and in its stations, according to Metrolinx, the province's regional transit agency for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

Passengers will still have to wear masks on GO trains and other public transit after March 21. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

GO service is getting busier with more restrictions being lifted and more offices requiring in-person attendance, says Anne Marie Aikins, Metrolinx spokesperson. 

GO Transit staff will also be required to wear masks on the job.

"Our ultimate goal is to keep everyone safe," Aikins said.

It isn't clear what the policy shift will mean at Toronto's Union Station, where the TTC, GO Transit and VIA Rail share the space with businesses at which masks will no longer be required.

Aikins says she is expecting clarification on that after the provincial government provides more details about the policy.

Concern for taxi drivers

It's not known whether ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft will have to continue mandating drivers and passengers to wear masks.

But taxis will still require face coverings, according to Kristine Hubbard, Beck Taxi's operations manager. She says she's worried about her drivers having to demand that customers follow a rule that's been lifted almost everywhere else.

"It's just going to make an already difficult situation even more uncomfortable," Hubbard said.

Kristine Hubbard, Beck Taxi's operations manager, says most cabs are equipped with Plexiglas barriers but she still worries about passengers not wearing masks when Ontario's mandate lifts later this month. (Yanjun Li/CBC)

Hubbard says she agrees with the mask mandate being in place longer for transit and just hopes that people will be respectful as society adapts to loosening restrictions.

"Friday night, Saturday night, people are leaving bars or restaurants. They haven't needed a mask. What is the driver going to do? Is he going to get into some kind of confrontation? Is there going to be conflict?"

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Trevor Dunn is an award-winning journalist with CBC Toronto. Since 2008 he's covered a variety of topics, ranging from local and national politics to technology on the South American countryside. Trevor is interested in uncovering news: real estate, crime, corruption, art, sports. Reach out to him. Se habla español. trevor.dunn@cbc.ca

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