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Source: US Amalgamated Transit Union

WINNIPEG — A long list of possible exposures and crowded buses are causing safety concerns on board Winnipeg Transit.

As COVID-19 case numbers skyrocket in Winnipeg, the Amalgamated Transit Union and bus riders claim some buses are too full for people to follow physical distancing rules.

Christine Catellier, a regular transit rider, said sometimes it’s a tight squeeze on her daily bus ride.

“They’re always full, the seats are always full sometimes there’s standing room only,” said Catellier

Being that close to others, she worries about COVID-19.

“I don’t know who those riders are,” Catellier said. “They’re not part of my social group, so people who have COVID could be on the bus.”

There have been 25 potential exposures announced on board Winnipeg Transit buses since October.

The transit union says crowded buses and a lack of enforcement over masks are problems.

“Our drivers are as much concerned about not just their own safety but the safety of our passengers,” said Rome Ignacio, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union 1505.

The City of Winnipeg said mask use on buses is at 97 per cent compliance, and ridership is at 40 per cent capacity.

The city said all buses are cleaned daily and extra buses are added when necessary.

“They do a bit of a hopping routine where they have additional buses following behind when they see a bus is over full,” said Jay Shaw, assistant chief of emergency management.

Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer, said the current restrictions could see even lower passenger numbers, creating more space on buses.

“When we slow things down with these restrictions, we make a lot of those things easier as most people should be staying home more often,” said Roussin

The transit union said it worries a drop in ridership could see itscity cut service like it did earlier this year, as transit is losing tens of millions of dollars at the farebox.

“It’s a real possibility that the city could decide to cut it’s losses,” said Ignacio.

The City of Winnipeg is covering a big chunk of transit losses with federal transit funding, as Mayor Brian Bowman stresses bus service is essential.

“A lot of health care professionals, they rely on transit to get to and from some of the hospitals,” said Bowman.

The city said it is looking at ways to make the bus commute safer.

Af for Catellier, she isn’t sure what more can be done.

“I have to go to work, and then the bus is my option for going to work, so I don’t see how it can be improved,” she said.