'They could be essential service workers': Montreal bus drivers told to leave no passengers behind
MONTREAL -- Citizens aren’t the only ones facing confusion surrounding the province’s two-metre physical distancing rule amid the COVID-19 pandemic – on Wednesday, Montreal bus drivers received a notice saying they must let all passengers on board, regardless of how full the bus is.
The Société de transport de Montréal (STM) used the notice to remind drivers that the agency hasn’t issued any information about passenger limits on city buses, citing its duty to provide transportation to essential service workers as the reason.
“There are no exceptions, even in overloaded situations: there could be essential service workers among them,” the notice reads. If overloading occurs, drivers are being asked to report it. If a route is particularly busy, the STM said it will respond to the demand.
In an emailed statement, the public transit agency said statistics show there are less than 15 people on board 95 per cent of the time, and less than 20 on board 98 per cent of the time. Over the course of the pandemic, both bus and metro schedules have been adjusted because of a significant decrease in users as people take to their homes.
“The objective is to not have more than 15 clients on board a vehicle,” the STM said. “In an exceptional case where the driver suspects there are more than 15 clients inside, he must not, however, leave them at the stop.”
The Réseau de transport de Longueuil (RTL) announced on Thursday that it is officially limiting the capacity of its buses to 15 passengers at a time.
“As recently mentioned, we’re following this situation closely and are listening to comments from our clients,” RTL general director Michel Veilleux said in a statement on the agency’s website. “Not only are we continuously adjusting our service to meet customer needs … But we are now implementing this measure until further notice, to ensure the health of our customers and employees.”
Last week, police were given the power to ticket people disrespecting the government's two-metre physical distancing order. Confusion surrounding the details of the rule led the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) to post an informational Youtube video earlier this week, as many of the calls they’ve received from citizens to report others so far have been “whacky or inappropriate.”
On its website, the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) outlines exceptions to the two-metre rule: people who live under the same roof who are distancing together, and those receiving essential services from others.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the STM has implemented control measures across its bus network by forcing passengers to board from the back of the bus and making seats closest to the drivers off limits.