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Lots of people on the TTC still not wearing masks despite recommendation to do so

As some people in Toronto begin the process of returning to work amid the first stage of Ontario's plan to reopen the economy, the TTC and the provincial government are now recommending that all drivers and riders wear a face mask or covering while using the system in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

"TTC is strongly recommending customers wear a face mask or face covering when travelling on the TTC," reads the recommendation on the TTC's website. "It's a simple step that protects others. Customers should also continue to practice physical distancing where possible, staying two metres away from other customers and TTC employees."

But despite the new guideline, not everyone seems to be complying.

Complaints have surfaced on social media indicating that many are still riding buses, subways and streetcars without any face coverings at all. 

This, coupled with the fact that some bus routes have continued to see constant crowding with little to no space for social distancing, is leading some to feel unsafe while using the transit system.

Many are calling for masks to be mandatory for all passengers as a result, which is something the TTC workers' union has been demanding for weeks. 

"The math is straightforward — as more businesses re-open, more people will be taking public transit with less TTC vehicles on the road," said Carlos Santos, ATU Local 113 president, in a statement earlier this month. "The City of Toronto must protect workers and the public by making face coverings mandatory on the TTC."

But many are also saying that the TTC should give away free masks if they plan to make them mandatory, something the transit system says they have neither the resources nor the infrastructure for.

"In other parts of the world where masks are mandatory to public transit, those decisions were made by senior orders of government and not transit authority," wrote the TTC Customer Service Account in response to a tweet about providing free masks.

"Unfortunately, we don't have the supplies or infrastructure to give away masks on our own."

The TTC is is currently scrapped for cash and will likely lose $300 million by Labour Day without additional government intervention following an 85 per cent drop in ridership due to lockdown measures, so it's no wonder providing free masks to everyone who uses the system just isn't in the budget right now.

The agency, the city and the union are therefore requesting financial help for the TTC from both the provincial and federal governments. 

"The Ontario government's recommendation for riders to wear face masks on public transit is a step in the right direction and comes after ATU Local 113 has called for mandatory face masks on the TTC. With the province falling short of making face coverings mandatory, public transit workers call on the public to do the right thing by protecting themselves and others by wearing face masks on the TTC," said Santos in a statement.

"The real question is how will municipalities pay for additional measures to protect public transit workers and riders? Without emergency funding from the province and federal government, it will be next to impossible to maintain proper service levels on the TTC to handle increased ridership and ensure physical distancing," he continued. 

"Toronto needs the province and the federal government to step up and provide the TTC with emergency funding."

Lead photo by

Rocco Signorile

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