By Lethbridge Herald on July 17, 2020.
The City of Lethbridge is resuming transit routes and fare collection next month.
Having received relaunch guidelines from the Government of Alberta, the City is gearing up to get all precautions in place to safely relaunch transit routes effective Aug. 4 from the current ride-by-reservation system.
“We were getting a lot of people commenting the ride-by-reservation system was not convenient for them to use,” said Kevin Ponech, Transit manager for the City of Lethbridge at a press conference Friday morning at city hall. “So we’re going to relaunch transit and hopefully by relaunching transit some of that ridership is going to come back. Right now we’re running at about 12 per cent of what our normal capacity is. So by relaunching transit we’re thinking people will hopefully start riding the bus again.”
When the regular routes return, current public health recommendations will remain in place, including physical distancing.
As well, riders will be encouraged to wear a mask with disposable masks available on the bus if needed.
“One of the big things going forward with this is we have some recommendations from the Alberta government. We’re asking everybody that the plan is to wear a mask while they’re using transit,” said Ponech. “Lethbridge was provided with 226,000 masks by the provincial government to hand out to customers who are riding on transit who aren’t able to get a mask for themselves.
“Another thing we’ve done in preparation for this is we’ve installed sanitizer on every bus, so (we ask) to follow proper provincial guidelines and use the sanitizer. We want to make sure we’re preventing the spread of the virus and we’re making sure everybody is safe. Right now safety is our number-one priority for not only our drivers, but the community and users of transit.”
Safety shields will also be installed for the drivers, said Ponech.
“So the drivers will not be able to interact like they normally do with the public because the shields are in place and that is to protect the public and the drivers.”
Proper physical distancing in busy terminals continues to be stressed, including keeping a two-metre space apart.
“We’ve been on the phone with several transit properties that have gone back to conventional transit systems and that is one of the big issues,” said Ponech. “People are really crowding the stop when the bus pulls up. The bus will wait for you, please keep the two-metre distancing when you’re boarding.”
When collecting fares, cash will be accepted, but riders are urged to use the Breeze Card.
“It’s a touchless system where you can tap and just get on the bus,” said Ponech, adding the City buses will be getting a thorough cleandown at the Transit barns.
A bus capacity is currently capped at 14 passengers, said Ponech.
“However, if we have masks in place on everybody on the bus we suspect we could probably put quite a few more people on the bus because we have provided all the sanitation, the hand sanitizers and masks are being provided to the people. If we start seeing a lot of people without masks then we will probably lessen what we’ll be hauling just to protect the public. But that’s why we’re asking the public to put on the mask for their ride and we can get a lot more people of the bus and not leave anybody behind.”
However, Ponech stressed if ridership doesn’t appear to be increasing from its current level of 12 per cent, there may be service reductions.
“Just because we need to keep this system sustainable and we just can’t have buses riding around empty with no passengers on it,” he said. “We’ll be monitoring it on a regular basis to ensure we are being efficient in the transit system.”
Though transit routes are set to resume next month with their normal summer schedule, Ponech reminded people there’s still a pandemic going on.
“I need to remind the community that COVID is still with us,” he said. “It’s still out there, please make sure you’re taking proper precautions … the physical distancing, the wearing of the masks. We’ve done everything we can to try and make it as safe as possible, but we’re all in this together and everybody must co-operate to stop the spread of this virus.”
The fee for a regular ride is $3. Riders are encouraged to get the touchless Breeze Card that can be scanned on the fare box.
Access A Ride also uses Breeze Card.
Transit fees and ticket/pass outlet locations can be found at http://www.//myride.lethbridge.ca/Pages/Fares.com.
The Access A Ride service will also resume fare collection on Aug. 4.
Public access to the Transit building at 619 4 Ave. N. will continue to be by appointment only.
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