Summary of transit responses to COVID-19
CUTA has compiled how transit systems are responding to the COVID-19 virus. This list will be updated on a regular basis as circumstances evolve to serve as a resource for CUTA members.
Please note that while CUTA will share best practices among members, we do not promote any strategy or product over another.
Q: Which elements of transit operations are considered essential? What is this informed by?
A: The federal government has included public transit in its list of essential services. This essential service includes front-line public transit operators and supply chain workers needed to support critical infrastructure. Non-essential public transit employees have been directed to work from home.
Q: How can essential operations be prioritized?
A: The Canadian transit industry is essential for transporting healthcare workers and other critical staff to the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. CUTA is following the guidance of the federal government, which has indicated that essential transit workers include bus, train and paratransit operators, and crucial supply chain workers.
Q: What is the impact on service delivery?
A: Public transit systems across Canada have had to adjust and reduce services to Saturday schedules where appropriate. This is due to rapidly declining ridership numbers as Canadians adhere to physical distancing recommendations and avoid all non-essential travel.
Despite this, essential workers (i.e. healthcare providers, etc.) still rely on public transit to get to and from work. This has led numerous transit systems to ramp up service during peak travel hours to promote safe physical distancing.
Without urgent federal relief, public transit systems in Canada will be unable to keep this essential service operating for front-line workers.
Q: What is the impact on the workforce?
A: Large cuts to service levels will hurt front-line workers on whom we depend during this pandemic. Many custodial workers and essential retail store employees rely on transit to get to work. They deserve good levels of service so they can get home to family and do so on vehicles that allow for safe physical distancing.
Without support from federal or provincial governments, layoffs and further service reductions will be more widespread and CUTA is hopeful transit will be included in relief efforts.
Q: What are some effective ways in which transit authorities are protecting both their workers and the public?
A: Canadian transit systems are engaging in thorough and diligent daily cleanings of front-line facilities, with heightened disinfecting schedules during peak travel hours. High touch surfaces and operator areas are being cleaned with advanced disinfectants, and transit systems are providing front-line staff with hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes for workstations. Transit systems are also implementing rear door boarding on vehicles to minimize contact between passengers and operators and are closing off certain seats to encourage physical distance between transit users.
On average, transit systems are incurring four times the normal costs of cleaning and disinfecting vehicles as a result of COVID-19. CUTA is calling on the federal government to place transit systems on the priority list for procurement of cleaning agents, disinfectants and PPE equipment for operators, and reimburse transit systems for the costs of these unforeseen expenses once the pandemic is over.
Q: What are some effective ways of engaging with and informing the public?
A: Public transit agencies have been using various communications methods to engage and inform the public on safe practices while using transit.
Following municipal/transit agency pandemic management plans and local public health advice, several systems have been using communication screens to remind passengers of ways to practice safe physical distancing, engage in proper hygiene and prevent transmission. These guidelines are also being communicated to the public through system websites, social media channels and mobile applications. Transit systems are also placing strategic signage on certain seats to indicate that they are closed, in order to encourage physical distancing between passengers.
Internally, transit systems are providing regular email and bulletin updates to operators and staff on local situations with COVID-19, as well as proper hygiene and handwashing practices. Guidance is also being communicated to front-line supervisory staff on policies related to personal sanitization products and how to practice safe physical distancing between operators and passengers.