Face coverings and riding the TTC during a pandemic5/21/20 10:57 AM
The following is a column by CEO Rick Leary, which originally appeared in the Toronto Star (online May 20, 2020)
By Rick Leary
Last week, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the first phase of the reopening of our economy and beginning this week more retail stores and businesses will begin to open.
The TTC, like everyone, welcomes the positive signal this sends; that there is light at the end of a very long tunnel. However, with COVID-19 still circulating in our community, it most certainly won’t be business as normal in the short-term and we will continue to follow the advice of public health professionals when it comes to our service.
The TTC plays a vital role in the lives and livelihoods of residents of the Greater Toronto Area – moving more than half a billion riders every year.
While our ridership during the pandemic has dropped to 20 per cent of normal levels, we also know that as the economy opens up, some of that ridership – people going to work and making shopping trips – is going to return.
Last week, TTC staff advised our Board of plans to manage that increase in ridership by matching service to demand.
We presented a flexible plan, which highlighted that our current service delivery of approximately 80 to 85 per cent of normal levels is providing service to the 15 to 20 per cent of riders who have continued to ride the TTC during the pandemic with physical distancing. But as the TTC has reported, physical distancing is not going to be possible on all routes at all times as things ramp up.
Safety is paramount to all we do at the TTC; both for our employees and our customers. Throughout this pandemic, we have worked closely with Toronto Public Health to remind everyone about best practices. We also introduced multiple daily vehicle and station cleanings as well as numerous protections for employees, including distributing masks, disinfectant wipes and gloves, implementing rear door boarding on buses, and blocking off seats on vehicles to promote physical distancing.
We have worked hard to foster a culture of safety throughout our system – and it is something we plan on continuing. But as ridership begins to increase, we need our customers to help us by doing one more thing as a courtesy to their fellow passengers – wear a face covering or mask when physical distancing is not possible.
Nationwide, public health officials have increasingly made this request as the economy begins to open up as wearing a face covering can prevent the wearer from inadvertently spreading the contagious novel coronavirus to others.
The face covering doesn’t need to be anything elaborate and it shouldn’t be medical grade.
Great resources for making something from household items like T-shirts and bandanas are available on the Public Health Agency of Canada’s and City of Toronto websites. Or you can even use a scarf that is fitted and covers your nose and mouth without gaping.
To be clear, face coverings are not mandatory at this time, but they are now strongly recommended. As has been the case from the outset of the pandemic, we will continue to follow the advice of government and public health officials and we will, of course, communicate any changes in this policy to our customers.
At the direction of the TTC Board, we will continue to communicate the strongly recommended use of face coverings and we will continue to work with the Province, the City and peer transit agencies on the legal, operational, safety and financial implications of making face coverings mandatory.
While we are only making a strong recommendation, I have no doubt the vast majority of our customers will opt to cover their faces.
Together, we will get through this pandemic if everyone does their part to make health and safety a priority. That includes on public transit.
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From the Archives
- Office of the Chief Executive, 19/05/2020
- Office of the Chief Executive, 12/05/2020
- CEO’s Report – May commentary, 08/05/2020
- CEO’s Report – April commentary, 03/05/2020
- Office of the Chief Executive, 01/05/2020
- Office of the Chief Executive, 28/04/2020
- Office of the Chief Executive, 23/04/2020
- Office of the Chief Executive, 17/04/2020
- Office of the Chief Executive, 09/04/2020
- CEO’s Report – March commentary, 01/04/2020