Transit union wants rules on who can ride during pandemic
HALIFAX -- Transit drivers in Halifax say too many people are riding buses right now and they worried about their health and safety.
They believe ridership should be restricted to essential workers in order to protect people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While ridership on Halifax Transit is down by more than half, people like Andrew Ward, still depend on it daily.
“I wouldn’t be able to work, because I'm not set up to work from home,” says Ward.
While many people still rely on transit to get to work, the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 508 says too many people onboard the buses are not going to work.
“They're picking up three or four teenagers, going three stops, getting off, getting something to eat, getting back on the bus, playing around,” says Kenny Wilson.
“I've had members spit on. I’ve had members threatened that their passenger has COVID-19 and trying to lick their hands and touch everything on the bus … It is absolutely to the point that it is risky for anybody to be out to work right now out on the buses.”
The union is asking Halifax Transit to make a rule that you can only board a bus if you are an essential employee going to work.
“You get on with a purple ID that knows you’re essential, we know you’re going to work,” says Wilson. “If you don't have that, you can't get the bus service today.”
The Halifax Regional Municipality says the crowd limit of no more than five people, along with the two-metre barrier between individuals, doesn't apply to public transportation, as stated in the provincial order.
The municipality says the two-metre rule is being encouraged and larger buses are being put in areas where crowding is being reported.
Taxi drivers are also vulnerable when it comes to their ability to keep their distance from a passenger.
Driver Tom O'Neil says transportation is important to many in the community who need to pick up groceries or get to a medical appointment, so he's staying on the job.
“If somebody were to get in the car and sneezing, I'd ask them to get out,” says O’Neil.
Public Health says no one who is feeling unwell should be using any form of public transportation.