‘I expect they’ll be very popular’: TransLink handing out free face masks

Metro Vancouver’s transit provider is giving away more than 15,000 cloth masks in a campaign meant to encourage riders to use them.

“I expect they’ll be very popular,” said TransLink spokesman Ben Murphy. “Already there’s a lot of chatter online about these masks, on where to get them and how to get them.”

The transit-themed masks will be given away at select Metro Vancouver bus and SkyTrain stations over the next several weeks, the locations posted on Twitter each day.

They’re part of a new campaign called “Wearing is Caring” designed to promote mask use on board. TranasLink data shows only about 30 per cent of passengers are currently wearing face coverings.

“So we do want to see those figures lift and as many people as possible to be wearing masks,“ said Murphy. “I think part of it is just getting used to seeing masks on transit. It’s normalizing that, this is normal part of catching a bus or catching a train.”

TransLink says it can’t force transit users to mask up. “Other jurisdictions where its manditory policy you’ll find that they’re not enforcing it. The difficulty in enforcement is that if people aren’t wearing a mask or face covering, they’re not breaking a law,” said Murphy.

Starting Monday, BC Ferries passengers will be required to have a mask with them and are expected to put it on if they can’t physically distance on board. But with multiple entrances, it’s much more difficult for bus drivers and SkyTrain staff to monitor mask use, so TransLink is hoping the free masks encourage more people to voluntarily cover their mouth and nose.

“Part of what we’re doing here is an education campaign, it is electing to use the carrot rather than the stick, to try to inform people about the benefits of mask use,” said Murphy. He hopes the free masks prove as popular as the Compass mini card and bracelets that transit riders lined up for.

“If we can make them a bit fun, a bit fashionable, a hot item, then we think thats going to help with the promotion of mask use broadly,” he said. “The more people are wearing masks on transit will mean it’s going to become a safer experience for everyone.”

Demand for the Vancouver Aquarium and Vancouver Whitecaps mask was so great that organizers had to step up production, and said last week thousands who’d ordered masks were still waiting.

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