Transit advisory board recommends changes to get people using transit again safely

By Mack Male

Service changes that enable physical distancing, better communication of cleaning procedures, and a strengthening of the existing mask mandate are some of the recommendations in a new report aimed at getting people to use transit again safely.

City council's urban planning committee will consider the report prepared by the Edmonton Transit Advisory Board (ETSAB) on March 23.

Although available evidence from other jurisdictions suggests that public transit is not a hotspot for COVID-19 transmission, a perception that transit is unsafe remains, the report says. A policy brief prepared by the International Association of Public Transport indicates that only 0.2% of traceable outbreaks were linked to public transit in Germany, for instance.

To better enable physical distancing, ETSAB recommends dynamically adjusting bus service to respond to busy areas and routes, and suggests looking at renting or leasing underused vehicles from other companies such as school buses.

Route 5 on Jasper Avenue

Route 5 on Jasper Avenue in 2017. (Mack Male/Flickr)

The bulk of the board's recommendations are related to communication. ETSAB suggests better communicating what is being done to keep buses and trains clean, as well as offering visual indicators of cleanliness, such as sheets that identify when a vehicle was last cleaned. Another recommendation is to encourage riders to provide real-time crowd-sourced information on how busy buses and LRTs are. Communicating safety measures "clearly and frequently to riders" will build trust, the report says.

On March 18, the City of Edmonton announced it has deployed additional transit peace officers, is adding more security guards to transit facilities, and is working with the Edmonton Police Service on "further security enhancements" in an effort to enhance safety on transit.

“We’ve been working hand-in-hand with our community partners to further enhance safety and security measures on our transit system,” said Carrie Hotton-MacDonald, branch manager of Edmonton Transit. “We’ve been taking action, and will continue to take action, to keep transit riders, staff and contractors on transit safe. Everyone has the right to belong and feel safe on our streets, in our public spaces and on transit.”