The city intends to make face coverings mandatory for all passengers and staff on public transit.
Mayor John Tory said on Thursday that TTC CEO Rick Leary and Medical Officer of Health Eileen de Villa have made the recommendation, which will go into effect on July 2 once approved by the TTC board next week.
“This will help to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our city,” Tory said during a press conference on Thursday morning. He added that that as lockdown measures ease and transit becomes busier, it will be harder for passengers to keep a distance.
People with medical considerations and children under two years of age will be exempt from the rule, which Tory said would not be enforced with penalties such as fines. Violators would typically face a $195 fine.
“I know a crackdown and enforcement blitz will not be needed,” he said. “We will focus on public education and the importance of following this new rule.”
The city will also undertake a “one-time targeted strategy” to distribute one-million non-medical masks to the public, with a focus on lower-income neighbourhoods.
TTC ridership has dropped 85 per cent since the province enacted lockdown measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The TTC has also been losing $90 million a month in revenue.
Physical distancing is expected to be more difficult as work places reopen and people start commuting again. Leary said that bus ridership is at the highest levels since lockdown and the TTC has begun redeploying vehicles to busy routes.
Leary added that 50-to-60 per cent of riders already wear face coverings.
“Given the exemptions and based on the experience from other jurisdictions where compliance has been high, like New York City, we don’t believe strict enforcement is necessary,” he said. We will continue to monitor and determine if further action is necessary.
“I want to be clear: No one will be refused a ride on the TTC for not wearing a face covering,” Leary added.
Employees who work behind a shield or in isolated cabs will have a choice to wear a mask or face covering.
The mayor said staffing will be increased in stations and decals have been added to encourage people to follow physical distancing rules and wear face coverings. As part of an awareness campaign, ambassadors will work at busy stations to ensure riders know the rules.
The TTC workers union head Carlos Santos applauded the move.
“Since early May, ATU Local 113 has called on the TTC to make face coverings mandatory on public transit and we welcome today’s announcement,” he said in a statement. “Implementing this policy will protect workers and riders alike and is the right thing to do to further prevent the spread of COVID-19 within our communities.”
Tory is also recommending the TTC Commission refund monthly pass holders for March and April based on usage.