Regina announced Thursday that masks will be mandatory for all bus passengers starting on Aug. 31.
Kim Onrait, the city's executive director of citizen services, said that with an increase in bus capacity it will be harder to keep physical distance.
"Requiring masks is another measure to make transit safer for everyone," he said.
Onrait said passengers can wear non-medical masks and coverings, such as bandanas folded in two layers wrapped around the mouth and nose. He said exemptions will be in place for children under five, people with medical conditions and those who cannot place or remove a mask without assistance.
"We understand there will be a trapped transitional period as customers get used to these new requirements," Onrait said. "The need to wear face masks will be required until the Saskatchewan Health Authority recommends otherwise."
Nathan Luhning, the city's manager of transit administration, said masks will be made available at "key transit time points," but only for a limited time. He said passengers are encouraged to bring their own masks.
Route changes and bus capacity
Regina transit will increase its service on eight routes, including high school routes, starting Aug. 31.
"While some routes are changing to offer regular weekday service, others will remain as they are now providing Saturday service on weekdays," Onrait said, "Weekends will continue to operate on the Sunday service schedules."
Onrait said bus capacity will also change for conventional buses to 34 to 37 seated passengers, from 15, and paratransit buses will increase to seven from three.
"Passengers will not be allowed to stand on the bus," Onrait said. "With this increase in capacity, it means physical distancing will be difficult."
He said there is no definitive date for transit to resume regular operations as of right now.
Ridership and revenue in Regina
Onrait said that while there is a lot of demand for the service, ridership is still lower than usual.
"Our ridership has gone from a low at about 4,000 riders per day and is now touching on the edge of 9,000 riders per day." Onrait said. "Normally our summer ridership is a bit lower, but if you look outside those two months it will run around 26,000 riders per day."
Luhning said the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on Regina transit in terms of revenue.
"The fares were waived for a period of time and when people start coming back on the bus we're not going to see everybody or what we had in terms of ridership pre-COVID," Luhning said.
"We're looking at an approximately $7,000,000 shortfall projected by the end of that year in terms of revenues collected through the transit farebox."