TTC implements new rules for bus passengers during coronavirus pandemic
Cash is out, cards are in, and back door boarding is the new standard on all TTC buses beginning today.
In response to pressure from both the public and the union representing its operators, the Toronto Transit Commission just unveiled a whole host of new rules meant to help stop the spread of COVID-19 (which, as of Tuesday morning, had infected 239 people locally.)
First and foremost, all bus passengers who do not require an accessibility ramp are asked to board and exit using the rear doors only.
"This change, made in consultation with ATU Local 113, allows for greater social distancing while minimizing potential contact with operators," wrote the agency in an announcement on Monday night.
"TTC operators have also been instructed to keep their protective barriers closed at all times."
Working with @ATUlocal113 , we have made additional changes to service delivery that increases operator safety and comfort while preserving as much service as possible. Read more at https://t.co/hhggDxTHFh— TTCStuart (@TTCStuart) March 23, 2020
The fare boxes typically found next to bus drivers will no longer be accessible, nor will drivers be issuing transfers to anyone.
Cash, tokens, youth and senior tickets will thus no longer be accepted, leaving only Presto cards and Presto tickets — which can be purchased from machines inside subway stations — as valid forms of payment.
"With more than 90 per cent of riders now using Presto, customers are still required to tap their Presto card and Presto ticket when boarding a vehicle or entering a station," reads the TTC's announcement.
That said, the TTC will not be denying service to passengers without Presto cards.
"We aren't going to deny service to anyone if they don't have PRESTO," wrote the transit agency's customer service account in response to a rider query. "We'd like you to pay at your next opportunity (streetcar or station) if possible."
No one will be denied service. ^KJ— TTC Customer Service (@TTChelps) March 24, 2020
The TTC also noted in its release on Monday that daily ridership has declined significantly since social distancing measures went into place across the province last week.
Ridership is said to have dropped by more than 70 per cent in recent days, prompting the TTC to make some service changes, including the reallocation of all 900-series Express routes as needed and all 140-series Downtown Express routes where needed.
Regular bus services will continue to run along Express routes that are suspended, according to the TTC, "with the majority of service operating every 10 minutes or better."
"This move is being made to prioritize the health and safety of our employees and customers," said TTC CEO Rick Leary of the moves.
"We continue to focus on physical distancing, social equity and ensuring we match capacity to demand."
Some bus passengers are still, however, calling the TTC's definition of "physical distancing" into question.
Hey #TTC, enough is enough! How are hospital workers such as myself supposed to get to work safely (and on time) when buses are coming less and less frequently? This packed vehicle is what I have to face twice daily. Is this your idea of #SocialDistancing? #Toronto #Covid19 pic.twitter.com/MBNDVFu4ep— Aura Torres (@Aura_Torres8) March 24, 2020
TTC officials maintain that they are taking direction from and following the advice of Toronto Public Health regarding any precautions and controls that should be implemented to protect customers and employees.
As it stands now, Toronto's medical officer of health is asking all residents to stay home when at all possible and to maintain a distance of two metres (or six feet) from each other when out in public.
Implementing back door boarding is far from the only precaution the TTC has taken in light of the coronavirus pandemic, however. Earlier this month, the agency announced that cleaning and disinfection protocols had been enhanced across the entire network.
TTC spokesperson Stuart Green said at the time that, since January, staff have been "conducting daily sanitizing/wipe downs of hand rails/straps on vehicles and in stations, including hand rails on stairs, elevator buttons and touch points in public washrooms.
"The TTC is closely monitoring ridership and service trends daily across all modes," reads the transit agency's most-recent announcement. "And reviewing staffing and resources in order to effectively match service delivery with availability."
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