Free bus rides, fewer taxis: How to get around Hamilton safely during COVID-19

News Mar 19, 2020 by Matthew Van Dongen The Hamilton Spectator

You will soon be able to board HSR buses for free — and through the back door — as part of Hamilton's pandemic precautions for public transit.

The city announced the changes, which take effect March 19, to better protect both drivers and riders from the perils of proximity as the number of COVID-19 infections in Hamilton grew to 17.

Paul Johnson, the city's emergency operations centre director, said daily bus ridership had already "dropped tremendously" — by nearly half as of the start of the week.

That's not a surprise — nor unwelcome — given the laser-focus of health officials on slowing the spread of the stubborn virus. In the past week, governments have ordered bars and restaurants to close, banned gatherings large and small, closed schools and urged workers to telecommute.

"Social distancing" is awfully tricky on a standing room-only bus, after all.

But people still need to get around town for groceries, work or important medical appointments — and the rules of safe travel are changing fast for anyone who does not use a personal automobile.

Here's the latest word on public transportation during a pandemic:

HSR

Starting March 19, the HSR will board most passengers from the back door of buses — meaning no fares will be collected. Riders who use mobility devices can still use the front door.

That's a precaution designed for drivers who otherwise are often forced into daily "close interactions" with passengers, said local HSR union president Eric Tuck. Think chatty riders, sure, but also handing out transfers or too-close-for-comfort fare disputes.

Starting next week, the city will also cut down its weekday bus frequency to the equivalent of a Saturday schedule to ensure it has enough healthy or non-quarantined bus drivers available for all routes.

The 51 University route will also be cancelled next week now that McMaster University is emptying its residences and ending in-person classes.

Other precautionary changes include banning the use of a seat directly behind drivers, asking riders to stay further back behind a newly added yellow line on the floor and more frequent sanitizing of bus surfaces.

Taxis

Hamilton's main taxi companies, Blue Line and Hamilton Cab, are still on the road — but advertising a slew of new health precautions. Those include keeping hand sanitizer handy and post-fare wiping of door handles and debit machines, for example.

Hamilton medical officer of health Dr. Elizabeth Richardson also recommends keeping a window open while travelling by taxi, just in case. Skip sitting in the front seat, too.

Don't be surprised if you see fewer taxis on the road.

The virus has convinced some cabbies — particularly those with pre-existing health or respiratory conditions — to "park their vehicles," said Hamilton Cab CEO Jagtar Singh Chalal. Still, he said the company still has between 130 and 150 "warriors" patrolling the city.

"For some of our regular customers, seniors and those with accessibility needs, we are a lifeline. We are not going away."

SoBi bike share

The city's bike-share system is still rolling, but SoBi is alerting riders to new precautions and the potential for temporary bike shortages in some locations.

SoBi emailed members to assure them bikes will be cleaned more frequently. But you can help by cleaning handles after use — and wearing gloves wouldn't hurt, either.

Be patient if fluctuating staffing mean some hub locations are not restocked with bikes as quickly as normal.

Free bus rides, fewer taxis: How to get around Hamilton safely during COVID-19

Board HSR buses from the back (and for free), don’t sit in the front of the taxi and make sure to wipe down your bike handles.

News Mar 19, 2020 by Matthew Van Dongen The Hamilton Spectator

You will soon be able to board HSR buses for free — and through the back door — as part of Hamilton's pandemic precautions for public transit.

The city announced the changes, which take effect March 19, to better protect both drivers and riders from the perils of proximity as the number of COVID-19 infections in Hamilton grew to 17.

Paul Johnson, the city's emergency operations centre director, said daily bus ridership had already "dropped tremendously" — by nearly half as of the start of the week.

Related Content

That's not a surprise — nor unwelcome — given the laser-focus of health officials on slowing the spread of the stubborn virus. In the past week, governments have ordered bars and restaurants to close, banned gatherings large and small, closed schools and urged workers to telecommute.

"Social distancing" is awfully tricky on a standing room-only bus, after all.

But people still need to get around town for groceries, work or important medical appointments — and the rules of safe travel are changing fast for anyone who does not use a personal automobile.

Here's the latest word on public transportation during a pandemic:

HSR

Starting March 19, the HSR will board most passengers from the back door of buses — meaning no fares will be collected. Riders who use mobility devices can still use the front door.

That's a precaution designed for drivers who otherwise are often forced into daily "close interactions" with passengers, said local HSR union president Eric Tuck. Think chatty riders, sure, but also handing out transfers or too-close-for-comfort fare disputes.

Starting next week, the city will also cut down its weekday bus frequency to the equivalent of a Saturday schedule to ensure it has enough healthy or non-quarantined bus drivers available for all routes.

The 51 University route will also be cancelled next week now that McMaster University is emptying its residences and ending in-person classes.

Other precautionary changes include banning the use of a seat directly behind drivers, asking riders to stay further back behind a newly added yellow line on the floor and more frequent sanitizing of bus surfaces.

Taxis

Hamilton's main taxi companies, Blue Line and Hamilton Cab, are still on the road — but advertising a slew of new health precautions. Those include keeping hand sanitizer handy and post-fare wiping of door handles and debit machines, for example.

Hamilton medical officer of health Dr. Elizabeth Richardson also recommends keeping a window open while travelling by taxi, just in case. Skip sitting in the front seat, too.

Don't be surprised if you see fewer taxis on the road.

The virus has convinced some cabbies — particularly those with pre-existing health or respiratory conditions — to "park their vehicles," said Hamilton Cab CEO Jagtar Singh Chalal. Still, he said the company still has between 130 and 150 "warriors" patrolling the city.

"For some of our regular customers, seniors and those with accessibility needs, we are a lifeline. We are not going away."

SoBi bike share

The city's bike-share system is still rolling, but SoBi is alerting riders to new precautions and the potential for temporary bike shortages in some locations.

SoBi emailed members to assure them bikes will be cleaned more frequently. But you can help by cleaning handles after use — and wearing gloves wouldn't hurt, either.

Be patient if fluctuating staffing mean some hub locations are not restocked with bikes as quickly as normal.

Free bus rides, fewer taxis: How to get around Hamilton safely during COVID-19

Board HSR buses from the back (and for free), don’t sit in the front of the taxi and make sure to wipe down your bike handles.

News Mar 19, 2020 by Matthew Van Dongen The Hamilton Spectator

You will soon be able to board HSR buses for free — and through the back door — as part of Hamilton's pandemic precautions for public transit.

The city announced the changes, which take effect March 19, to better protect both drivers and riders from the perils of proximity as the number of COVID-19 infections in Hamilton grew to 17.

Paul Johnson, the city's emergency operations centre director, said daily bus ridership had already "dropped tremendously" — by nearly half as of the start of the week.

Related Content

That's not a surprise — nor unwelcome — given the laser-focus of health officials on slowing the spread of the stubborn virus. In the past week, governments have ordered bars and restaurants to close, banned gatherings large and small, closed schools and urged workers to telecommute.

"Social distancing" is awfully tricky on a standing room-only bus, after all.

But people still need to get around town for groceries, work or important medical appointments — and the rules of safe travel are changing fast for anyone who does not use a personal automobile.

Here's the latest word on public transportation during a pandemic:

HSR

Starting March 19, the HSR will board most passengers from the back door of buses — meaning no fares will be collected. Riders who use mobility devices can still use the front door.

That's a precaution designed for drivers who otherwise are often forced into daily "close interactions" with passengers, said local HSR union president Eric Tuck. Think chatty riders, sure, but also handing out transfers or too-close-for-comfort fare disputes.

Starting next week, the city will also cut down its weekday bus frequency to the equivalent of a Saturday schedule to ensure it has enough healthy or non-quarantined bus drivers available for all routes.

The 51 University route will also be cancelled next week now that McMaster University is emptying its residences and ending in-person classes.

Other precautionary changes include banning the use of a seat directly behind drivers, asking riders to stay further back behind a newly added yellow line on the floor and more frequent sanitizing of bus surfaces.

Taxis

Hamilton's main taxi companies, Blue Line and Hamilton Cab, are still on the road — but advertising a slew of new health precautions. Those include keeping hand sanitizer handy and post-fare wiping of door handles and debit machines, for example.

Hamilton medical officer of health Dr. Elizabeth Richardson also recommends keeping a window open while travelling by taxi, just in case. Skip sitting in the front seat, too.

Don't be surprised if you see fewer taxis on the road.

The virus has convinced some cabbies — particularly those with pre-existing health or respiratory conditions — to "park their vehicles," said Hamilton Cab CEO Jagtar Singh Chalal. Still, he said the company still has between 130 and 150 "warriors" patrolling the city.

"For some of our regular customers, seniors and those with accessibility needs, we are a lifeline. We are not going away."

SoBi bike share

The city's bike-share system is still rolling, but SoBi is alerting riders to new precautions and the potential for temporary bike shortages in some locations.

SoBi emailed members to assure them bikes will be cleaned more frequently. But you can help by cleaning handles after use — and wearing gloves wouldn't hurt, either.

Be patient if fluctuating staffing mean some hub locations are not restocked with bikes as quickly as normal.