As of Aug. 24, all users of BC Transit buses throughout the province — including the community bus serving Ashcroft, Cache Creek, and Clinton — will have to wear face masks when using transit.
The move comes as health professionals — including Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry — continue to advise transit users to use masks when physical distancing is not possible. Customers have also indicated that making the use of face coverings mandatory for people using transit will create a more comfortable environment.
The move brings BC Transit into alignment with TransLink and other transportation agencies. Accommodations will be permitted for children under the age of five and those who cannot wear a face covering for health reasons.
A press release from BC Transit states that “While face coverings will be mandatory, the policy will be implemented as an educational step without enforcement. The educational position is aligned with TransLink and other transit agencies in Canada.”
Jonathon Dyck, communications manager for BC Transit, says that the company realizes there are reasons why some people cannot wear a mask, and notes that the BC Transit website lists exemptions from the mandatory face covering policy. These exemptions include anyone with an underlying medical condition or disability which inhibits the ability to wear a mask or face covering; persons unable to place or remove a mask or face covering without assistance; and children under the age of five.
Dyck says that BC Transit will be taking an educational approach, and that if a passenger is not wearing a mask they will not be challenged.
“If someone gets on a bus without a mask the driver will assume they fit into one of these five exclusion categories,” he says. “We don’t know everyone’s story, don’t know their circumstances, but we know that people want there to be mandatory face coverings, and that they will be wearing them if they can.
“The expectation is that if you don’t meet one of these exclusion criteria you’ll wear a face covering. It’s something passengers have said they want, and Dr. Henry has noted that if you can’t physically distance you should wear a mask. We expect people to take that step if they can.”
He notes that an educational approach is something they have seen other transit companies take across Canada.
“They’ve had significant successes, and we think we can implement it with success. We don’t know other people’s stories, and we would ask other bus riders to take that stance. We all need to do our part.”
Dyck says that customers have identified three areas of particular importance. “They want increased cleaning, which we have implemented; capacity management, where we don’t have jam-packed buses; and a mandatory face covering policy. These are all steps that we’ve taken, along with others endorsed by Dr. Henry and WorkSafeBC.
“As we make further adjustments we will let the community know.”
BC Transit says that it will be working to ensure that customers are aware of the new policy, and is also working on plans with local government partners to hand out promotional face coverings later this summer. The “Together We Ride” campaign continues across the province, promoting the need to work together to make the transit journey comfortable for customers. Details are available at www.bctransit.com/together-we-ride.
For more details about the mandatory mask policy and BC Transit’s response to COVID-19, visit www.bctransit.com or call your local transit office. For the Ashcroft-Cache Creek-Clinton bus, that is Yellowhead Community Services in Clearwater (250-674-2600, or email email@example.com).