Rosemarie Claydon has altered her commute.
The Kamloops transit user no longer rides the bus during the day, when it is busy with passengers seated next to one another. During peak times, she said, passengers are so close they are touching — not physically distanced.
As a result, Claydon has cancelled plans, found another ride or taken the bus during slower times.
“One time when it got full enough, I just left,” Claydon said. “I just got off early and then walked, which some other people say they do. I’m immuno-compromised and that’s really scary, really dangerous. Even with a mask, the experts are all saying — I mean every single expert is saying — the most important precaution is distancing.”
Claydon said buses are allowed to be filled to capacity, which is fewer than the 50-person limit but still results in people seated next to one another on a full bus with an inability to physically distance from one another.
Health experts suggest physical distancing to prevent spread of COVID-19, with the goal of staying about two metres away from others. On a full transit bus, seated passengers can fall well inside that distance.
Experts have also advised use of a mask, when physical distancing is not possible, and BC Transit has mandated mask use by passengers. However, Claydon said, BC Transit’s mask policy is not enforced.
KTW previously reported that most people were abiding by the mask mandate. Still, Claydon said she doesn’t understand why strangers are allowed to touch in an enclosed space during a pandemic — especially with case counts on the rise.
“There’s already a big rise everywhere, including B.C.,” she said. “We’re experiencing it.”
A letter from a student published in a recent edition of Kamloops This Week also expressed concern about crowded buses, with in-classroom school back in session.
“Every day, I normally get to and from school via city transit,” Sa-Hali secondary student Nic Gillespie wrote to KTW. “Last year, there were two or three buses required to transport all the kids who take the No. 9 home and we were packed in there like sardines. I am very curious to see what this will look like this year, as standing room only, where you’re mushed against four neighbours, obviously won’t work amid the pandemic.”
In a statement, BC Transit did not respond to questions about capacity policy amid the pandemic. However, it said its data shows seven trips out of more than 800 per weekday in Kamloops went above 65 per cent of its seated capacity during the week of Sept. 8 to Sept. 11. Those seven trips covered three routes — one, two and seven — and averaged 69 per cent seated capacity.
BC Transit said it is working hard to maintain comfortable spacing on buses.
The statement noted increased ridership due to school starting and encouraged riders to travel at non-peak times and check NextRide for bus capacities, as pass-ups may occur when buses are too full.
It said an extra bus has been put on standby in the mornings and afternoons to provide support for school service as necessary.
In addition, it has implemented increased cleaning and one-way passenger flow onboard buses amid the pandemic.