Sally Thomas talking about Para and COVID

How well is Para Transpo protecting people from COVID?

By Sally Thomas


So, we are about 400 days into this global pandemic and I cannot help but feel like OC Transpo has more work to do to provide clear direction for folks using the bus as far as social distancing goes. There are definitely things about these safety measures that OC Transpo is doing well at; but one thing I feel still needs work is how we can best maintain social distancing measures on a bus. For a while people were not even permitted to board the front of the conventional bus unless they were using a mobility device or a stroller. That has now changed and anyone can board the front, if the driver will open the door. That is what is happening on the conventional…and I get it. Drivers are OC Transpo’s biggest asset and they have to do everything they can to protect them.

What I don’t understand and am becoming increasingly frustrated by is OC Transpo’s lack of attention to the well-being of both the drivers and users of Para Transpo. There are fewer people involved on the Para side; but Para Transp is still part of the OC Transpo transit system and deserves the same level of care. I’d like to see social distancing measures adhered to on Para too. That means that drivers should be picking up only one person requiring the front tie-down positions, even though there is space for two. On two different occasions this past week, drivers asked to put two of us in the front positions. When that happens, we can literally reach out and touch each other. Definitely not six feet! In the first instance, I got lucky. Another bus showed up and I convinced the driver to ask dispatch to make the change. In the second instance, I was the first passenger to board; but discovered we were picking up two more people on the way to my destination. Cases are climbing again here and I told the driver I wasn’t comfortable sitting that close to another wheelchair user I didn’t know. Again, he contacted dispatch and this time I was taken straight home before he went back for the other passengers. I’ve asked for OC Transpo’s stance on this and am awaiting a response. In the meantime, I am not taking any chances. Unless and until protocol dictates one user in the front tie-down at a time, I will be refusing rides.

I look forward to the day when leadership at OC Transpo recognizes Para Transpo as an equitable and equally important transit system and applies a similar level of resources to both.

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