Vaccine passports and public transportation in Ottawa

Addressing the elephant in the bus

Last week, I talked about vaccine passports and how some people with disabilities may not be required to show theirs.

As it turns out, I was correct. In this case, I wish that I wasn’t.

I’ve recently learned that both OC Transpo and Para Transpo drivers aren’t checking passengers for proof of vaccines.

As we all know, the LRT has been out of service for several weeks. As of this writing, no date has been set for its return. With LRT being down, people have had to rely on both OC Transpo and even Para Transpo.

Both OC and Para Transpo have a mask policy. However, I’ve talked about occasions where the driver and passenger weren’t wearing a mask. While on the subject, I can’t forget to mention the high number of drivers testing positive for Covid.

With that in mind, I ask you….

Why aren’t drivers asking passengers to show proof that they received both vaccines?

Sure, one can argue that if they checked every vaccine passport, a long line-up would form, which would result in buses showing up even later.

My solution for that is perhaps to take the LRT workers is orange vests that are probably not working now and put them at bus stops or in buses to check proof of vaccines. With the increase in ridership, this needs to happen now.

We all have a right to feel safe, and the pandemic is still far from over.

In the case of Para Transpo, things are a bit different in terms of possibly having long line-ups due to checking proof of vaccines.

Typically, Para Transpo picks up one or two people at a time. Checking proof of vaccines would go much smoother and faster than on OC Transpo.

As far as the drivers go, I also think that passengers should view their driver’s proof as well. By doing that, both drivers and their passengers (s) will feel as safe as possible during these times of uncertainty.

Some are probably asking the question that would it add up to longer wait times? Or more time so the driver can enter information into their onboard computer.

No, not necessarily.

Once a Para Transpo user shows their proof, the driver could put it into their computer, write it down, tell dispatch, or whatever. That way, the next time a Para Transpo driver picks the person, the driver wouldn’t need to check for proof of vaccines.

To me, that would be common sense and seems pretty straightforward. Sadly, it probably also means that it will not happen.

Here’s another question that some are probably asking.

What about those who can’t be vaccinated due to medical reasons?

That’s a tough question, and I’m guessing that it’s more of a factor on Para Transpo.

First, I think Para Transpo needs to be made aware of it. I would hope that the ride scheduler would plan for no other passengers to be on board when picked up and dropped off.

As for the driver, I’m not sure how to ensure their safety. All I can think of right now is perhaps having the driver wearing PPE or taking extra precautions.

Again, I don’t know, and I apologize.

Regardless, by not requiring passengers to show proof of vaccines, you’re ignoring the problem, and therefore, putting thousands of people at risk every single day.

With examples like these, it makes me question how serious Ottawa and the province are about minimizing the risks, especially when it comes to public transportation.

The name says it all. Public Transportation. Transportation that is for the public, as in people, a lot of people.

The fact that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people can easily get on board, and often in a very crowded space without needing to show proof, is absolutely ridiculous and highly unsafe. At this point, very little has been discussed about it by the media.

That, to me, is a complete and utter failure.

As a person with a disability who uses a wheelchair, I can honestly tell you that it’s impossible to social distance on an OC Transpo bus. Even if the bus is almost empty, at any time, a person needing to use the priority seating can get on.

And guess where people using wheelchairs or other mobility devices sit?

In that same area, which is located at the front of the bus.

I would like to know why this topic has been allowed to fly under the radar.

As I said, the pandemic’s still far from over. There are still people refusing to wear masks and refusing to get vaccinated. Also, PLEASE remember that even if you receive both vaccines, you can STILL get Covid.

The City Of Ottawa needs to step up and do more to protect the public. Don’t leave it up to us. Some people aren’t capable or care enough to protect themselves and others.