The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is pitching in to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus in Toronto with operational changes aimed at aiding social distancing.
Among the changes is allowing for all door boarding on all vehicles to avoid creating a pinch point at single door entry and allow for more separation between customers and operators.
The same number of Fare Inspectors will still be employed on all vehicles but they will be taking a different approach. Instead of issuing fines to fare evaders, the inspectors will dole out education, the agency said.
“They’ll observe and they’ll educate on proper tap etiquette if they see someone doesn’t tap,” said TTC spokesman Stuart Green.
As for the inspectors’ health, Green said they’ll use their best judgment, in addition to policies the TTC has implemented.
For instance, the commission announced Wednesday that its staffers would be allowed to wear their own face masksgoing forward. Previously, it said, they had been asked to remove masks because Toronto Public Health advises against their use by healthy people.
Green said the commission is also encouraging its inspectors to practice social distancing.
“They’ll only stay on vehicles if there are fewer than 50 people. Although I can tell you that travelling the system for the last few days, most of our vehicles are not as busy as they’d normally be.”
He said axing fares isn’t an option the TTC could consider because they comprise a large part of its budget, which will already be hurt by floundering numbers due to social distancing.
“One thing we have to remind people is we are delivering 98 or 99 per cent of the service we would normally be delivering,” Green said.
“We’re trying to keep that going as long as we can because the TTC is an important part of getting people around the city, particularly in these times. It’s getting people to work – people who work in grocery stores or in medical facilities.”
The TTC is also working with the city, Toronto Public Health (TPH) and Toronto Community Housing (TCH) to “keep the city’s most vulnerable safe.”
Starting soon, when community housing clients present symptoms of COVID-19, the TTC’s Wheel-Trans will take patients to an assessment centre for testing and then to an isolation centre if needed.
Patients as well as TTC operators who drive the vehicles used for patient transport will be given appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) including properly fitted masks.
Wheel-Trans will have dedicated vehicles for these trips which will be subject to intense cleaning protocols. In the interim, the TTC is also working with TCH to ensure all their vehicles are properly cleaned and maintained to TTC standards
In addition, the TTC is allowing their workers to wear masks on the job “for the comfort of employees, and to ensure continuity of transit service for those who need it at this time.”
While TPH continues to advise that healthy individuals should not wear masks for fear of increased face touching, TTC employees who choose to do so will not be asked to remove their masks.
The change will go into effect over the next 24 hours.