TransLink, BC Ferries say 1st day with mandatory face coverings was positive

TransLink and BC Ferries both reported a positive response to new mandatory face covering rules on Monday, with spokespeople claiming the requirement was observed by most passengers.

Previously, TransLink had encouraged the use of masks, while BC Ferries had required them when physical distancing wasn’t possible in terminals and aboard vessels.

“Anecdotally, out in the field, it does seem like there’s a relatively high level of compliance for the most part, so we’re quite pleased,” Ben Murphy, TransLink spokesperson, said on Monday.

Despite some reports on social media that passengers aboard buses were seen without masks during the Monday morning commute, Murphy said he saw 100 per cent compliance when he was using the transit system.

Tessa Humphries with BC Ferries said she checked in with several terminals and was told compliance appeared to be about 90 per cent, though it wasn’t a thorough assessment of the entire BC Ferries network.

“Anecdotally, from the handful of terminals I was able to speak to, they said it was positively received,” said Humphries.

Both organizations are opting for a soft approach to enforcing the new rule, emphasizing education, messaging and understanding that some passengers are exempt from the rule.

A transit passenger wearing a mask is pictured in Vancouver, B.C., walking near a sign advising that masks are mandatory aboard all transit vehicles. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

“We’re going into this with an approach of kindness and information and awareness. So a crew member may inform them of the policy to make sure that they are aware of it moving forward,” said Humphries. “We are trying to follow the words of Dr. Bonnie Henry here — so ‘be kind, be calm and be safe.'”

Humphries said passengers have to wear masks everywhere on vessels and at terminals, unless they’re inside their vehicles, eating food (while physically distanced), under two years old, have underlying medical conditions or disabilities, or are unable to don and remove face coverings without assistance.

Murphy said TransLink staff are distributing free masks as part of the educational campaign, with 10,000 having already been handed out. He said there are more than 20,000 more to be distributed, but most passengers already have masks and are now used to wearing them.

“We think it should be much like picking up your keys when you leave the house — you’re going to pick up a mask as well,” said Murphy.

Murphy said Transit Police can fine passengers without masks $150, but the hope is that won’t be necessary, as officers focus on education and wearing face coverings continues to become increasingly normal. 

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