Pandemic Passengers

People in Ottawa are being encouraged not to go out unless it’s essential and to social distance from others. But at the same time, many in Ottawa have to rely on public transport to get to school or work. Social distancing and staying safe can feel difficult when you’re on a bus with strangers.

Glue has put together some tips for how to keep yourself and others safer while riding OC Transpo.

1. Let people off before boarding

OC Transpo’s website asks passengers to “allow other riders to exit the vehicle before you board.” This is something that some in Ottawa have struggled with since before the pandemic, but is now even more important in order to social distance.

Allowing people to exit before boarding creates more room on the bus. This allows for easier social distancing. It also means people boarding won’t bump into those exiting the bus.

And come on, the last thing anyone wants is to exit into a crowd of strangers at 7 a.m. when they’re trying to get to class.

Rather than jumping onto the bus as soon as the doors open, wait a few moments and let people exit.

Photo credit: Vanshita Gandhi

2. Wear your mask

Wear your mask properly. Whether you’re on the bus, in a station or at a stop, just wear it. That means don’t fiddle with it, don’t put it under your nose, don’t take it off when nobody’s looking.

Just because you’re in a shelter by yourself, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t spreading your germs.

Masks have been made mandatory on transit since June 15. As of Oct. 9, passengers may be fined for refusing to wear a mask without a valid reason.

“OC Transpo Special Constables will now issue a fine of $260 to those customers not wearing a mask under the City’s mandatory mask policy and the Transit By-Law,” says John Manconi, Ottawa’s general manager of transportation services in a recent memo to city council. “Customers who do not wear a mask and do not have any medical or other restrictions will be advised that they are not able to enter the system.”

Photo credit: Vanshita Gandhi

3. Keep your distance

OC Transpo is asking passengers to “practice physical distancing as much as possible.”

They also ask passengers not to “crowd the fare gates, ticket machines, or other amenities” in order to prevent the spread of germs and make it easier to social distance.

For the most part, transit riders seem to be fairly respectful of each other’s social distance at stops and stations. However, this can prove more difficult during rush hour when busses are busier.

To help passengers physical distance, OC Transpo has reduced the maximum number of passengers allowed on a bus. They also encourage customers to try arriving a little earlier to allow for the possibility of waiting for a bus with less people.

“Everyone sits far apart, but I imagine that would be impossible if the bus is crowded,” says 19-year-old Simon Xarchos, a global and international studies student at Carleton University. “Passengers sometimes sit too close to me when there’s a lot more space on the bus. That can be annoying.”

Try to leave two full metres of space near the doors to allow passengers to exit without coming within close contact with others.

Photo credit: Vanshita Gandhi

4. Keep your hands to yourself

To help prevent the spread of germs, do your best to refrain from touching things needlessly and be sure to sanitize your hands often.

You can use your U-Pass without making physical contact with the card reader or fare gate. Swipe it and leave some distance between the card and machine. OC Transpo asks customers to put this into practice saying, “no need to tap your card, just hold it next to the card reader to pay your fare.”

Photo credit: Vanshita Gandhi

5. Exit at the back

OC Transpo reinstated front-door boarding on June 15. This was done to encourage passengers to enter at the front of the bus and exit at the rear. This creates an even flow of people and prevents too many people from boarding at once.

Image supplied by OC Transpo

Image supplied by OC Transpo Photo credit: OC Transpo

Riding the bus isn’t exactly a complicated procedure, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important to stay safe while doing it. Following the rules and being courteous to other passengers helps make transit safe for yourself and others. So please, do your part.


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