In the time of COVID-19, some may feel uncomfortable riding public transit. Though Winnipeg Transit states that they have been taking extra measures to ensure public health safety, including frequent sanitization and mandating face masks on all buses, riders may still be concerned about potential exposure risks.
For riders who do not own vehicles, cycling and car-sharing are a few of the alternatives to public transit they can explore.
Philip Mikulec is the operations manager at Peg City Car Co-op, a car-sharing company with numerous membership options. With dozens of co-op vehicles located all around central Winnipeg, car-share users can book a Peg City car when they need it, paying an hourly rate that differs based on membership choice.
Mikulec says Peg City Car Co-op is not a competitor with Winnipeg Transit, but an ally. Rather than act as a replacement for riding public transit, their car-sharing program aims to supplement it.
“We want to augment and support different transportation options,” he says, “to use our cars as a specific tool for times when other transportation options aren’t super feasible in a city like Winnipeg.”
Those who wish to use the car-sharing service temporarily or to avoid riding public transit during peak hours may be interested in the casual plan, which offers a low-commitment, non-membership-based option for occasional users.
Cynthia Carr, an epidemiologist at EPI Research, says using a car-sharing service could reduce the exposure risk by decreasing the number of passengers in an enclosed space.
“A car-sharing service could potentially cut down on the number of people you’re exposed to,” she says.
However, Carr says if the vehicle is being used to carpool multiple passengers, there could be a greater risk of transmission. She says keeping car windows open and knowing how large each passenger’s contact bubble is can be a form of harm reduction.
“We have to trust that we’re doing the right thing,” Carr says.
Despite the existence of these options, there still remains a gap in who these alternative transit methods are available to. Considering that Winnipeg Transit services people with disabilities, seniors and young people who may not be able to drive or cycle, riding a bike or using a car-share may not be an option for some bus riders.
For public transit users, transportation to COVID-19 testing sites also remains an issue. Riders are told not to ride Winnipeg Transit if they are symptomatic. According to a statement made to the CBC by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, special transportation to testing sites may be organized through Health Links under circumstances where no other means of safe transportation is available.
For those who continue to ride Winnipeg Transit, Carr adds that public transit riders can protect themselves and others by wearing a mask, washing their hands frequently and physically distancing themselves from other riders as much as possible.
“Public transit is doing their best at harm reduction,” she says. “It’s up to us to follow the rules and do our due diligence.”