P.A. Transit implementing mandatory masking along with increased capacity

Changes take effect Aug. 31, children under 5 and those with medical conditions exempt from masking

(Herald file photo)

Passengers with Prince Albert Transit will soon have to wear masks or face coverings as the city increases capacity on buses.

Children under five years old and passengers with medical conditions making them unable to wear a mask will be exempt from the policy, which begins on Aug. 31.

“In September, we traditionally have a lot more people on the bus than we do in July and August,” said Transportation and Traffic Manager Keri Sapsford.

“We want to make sure that we have something in place to make sure we can meet that demand and meet that demand safely.”

She said Prince Albert Transit is anticipating increased ridership with elementary and high school students returning to the classroom.

Currently, buses have a nine-passenger limit so that they can maintain physical distancing. Now, they’re returning to fully-seated loads with no standees.

Sapsford said in March, Prince Albert Transit saw about 40 per cent of its usual capacity for that time of the year. For this time in August, they’re up to about 70 per cent, with between 700 and 800 passengers every day.

However, because of the limited capacity, drivers are having to turn away between 10 and 30 passengers on a daily basis.

Prince Albert Transit had been coordinating with the Cities of Regina, Saskatoon and Moose Jaw to keep the rules consistent. The City of Regina also announced on Thursday that it will be implementing mandatory masking and increased capacity, just like in Prince Albert.

Sapsford said they decided to make children under five an exception because it’s difficult for them to leave a face covering on for the entire ride. As for people with medical conditions, she said it’s recommended to bring a doctor’s note saying you can’t wear a mask, but not mandatory.

If it starts to become an issue, then they’ll require a doctor’s note.

“The last thing we want is for our drivers to become mask police, but we do want people to be wearing masks on the bus just because you’re going to be sitting right next to each other,” said Sapsford.

Passengers must bring their own mask. The morning rush hour route, which was originally put on hold throughout the summer because of low ridership, will begin again on Aug. 31.