Bus masks

Passengers will be required to wear face masks on Kelowna-area buses later this month, BC Transit has announced as part of a province-wide policy change. But the measure will be "educational" in nature, with no enforcement, the Crown corporation says.

The wearing of masks on Kelowna-area transit buses will be required, but not enforced, as of Aug. 24.

Passengers, with the exceptions of children under five and those with health conditions, will be required to have face coverings to guard against the spread of COVID-19.

But the measure is being introduced as "an educational step without enforcement", according to a Thursday release from B.C. Transit.

"Customers have indicated making the use of face coverings will create a more comfortable environment," the Crown corporation says.

Promotional face coverings will be handed out on buses in the coming weeks, BC Transit says.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said the wearing of masks is appropriate when people are in indoor or confined spaces, such as a transit bus, where it may not always be possible to practice physical distancing.

The Kelowna Regional Transit is operated by BC Transit in co-operation with the municipalities of Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland, and Lake Country.

Ridership on Kelowna-area buses plunged 70 per cent in early April compared to the same month in 2019 as schools and many businesses closed, and many people began working from home.

By early July, ridership had recovered to about 60 per cent of normal summer levels.

But with UBC Okanagan and Okanagan College moving to online only programs this fall, ridership in September will be well below usual fall volumes. As a result, transit service will be cut by nearly 10,000 hours this fall from a normal autumn level.