Inspections find crowding issues on some LTC buses
Published Tuesday, April 21, 2020 4:25PM EDT Last Updated Tuesday, April 21, 2020 5:55PM EDT
LTC rider Karen Labelle captured this photo on a transit bus the week of April 13, 2020.
LONDON, ONT. -- After complaints from passengers and a driver, inspections of several London Transit Commission (LTC) buses found physical distancing issues.
Dr. Chris Mackie, CEO of the Middlesex-London Health Unit, admits that there is an issue with passengers in close proximity with one another on some LTC buses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We did inspect several of the buses [Monday]. In general we found there was no issue maintaining safe distancing within those buses. There was an example in one of the downtown buses where there had been some fairly crowded conditions. So at this point we are working with LTC management," says Mackie.
LTC passenger Karen Labelle told CTV News on Monday, "I have anxiety and panic attacks every day. Every day when it’s time to get on that bus, and every time that I have to leave work and I don‘t know what I’m in for every day - whether it’s going to be a ton of people, which it usually is, yeah it’s really scary."
Labelle shared photos with CTV News that appeared to show riders sitting far closer together than the two metre distance required under physical distancing guidelines.
The president of Local 741 of the Amalgamated Transit Union followed up on those concerns, sending a letter outlining the issue, which included physical distancing being "advised" but not "enforced," which is part of what prompted the inspections.
Mayor Ed Holder, who called it "disturbing" if physical distancing was not taking place on city buses, commented, "If there are issues…with passengers, we need to know. I think the LTC, through its administration and our bus operators have done a pretty good job on balance."
ATU seeks COVID-19 screening protocol for London transit's paratransit clients
The president of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) wants to know what London transit's screeningprotocol is for their paratransit clients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We have been getting a lot of inquiries questioning whether the London Transit Commission has a screening protocol for specialized transit...In St. Thomas, for example, only essential trips for banking, grocery or healthcare are currently being offered, which is in line with public health guidelines," said President John Di Ninoin a statement.
"We are hearing that clients are going from apartment to apartment by London paratransit and that is a fundamental health risk to the bus operators and passengers who use the same buses," he added.
The union is calling for trips to be limited to essential locations only due to physical distancing being a challenge on paratransit trips.
"We recently held a national town hall with our members to discuss how the pandemic is affecting paratransit operators. All of our members in other cities told us that their dispatch screens for essential trips only,” Di Nino continued. “So what is London’s policy on paratransit screening?"
As there are no driver shields and paratransit buses have limited space, operators continue to be in close contact with their clients.
Di Nino suggests client screening is necessary during the pandemic in order to secure safe physical distancing in order to return to full services once the COVID-19 emergency has been lifted.