A bus driver wears a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 as the digital sign on the front of the bus reminds passengers that masks are mandatory on public transit, in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

TransLink CEO asks riders not to enforce mask rules after Surrey bus punch-up

A fight broke out on a bus at 96 Avenue and Scott Road involving a man who refused to wear a mask

Kevin Desmond, CEO of TransLink, is asking bus and SkyTrain passengers not to attempt to enforce mandatory mask-wearing regulations after what began as a friendly offer to provide another passenger with a mask ended in a punch-up on a Surrey bus.

Constable Mike Yake, Transit Police spokesman, said the fight happened on a bus at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, at 96th Avenue and Scott Road. He said a passenger was sitting on his bus seat when another guy entered not wearing a mask. “The man removed a spare mask from his bag and offered it to the other man.

“The other man declined the invitation for the mask,” Yake said. “The man then asked the suspect if he was medically exempt from wearing a mask, and at that point the suspect became upset and belligerent.”

READ ALSO UPDATED: Surrey RCMP arrest six youths after fight involving airsoft pistol in Newton

At that point, Yake said, the victim stood up to confront the suspect about not wearing the mask he’d offered “and at that point the suspect allegedly punched the victim in the head, which led to the fight on the bus.”

Passengers looked on, stunned, as the fight spilled out onto the street.

The victim was taken to hospital to be treated for a cut above his eye. Yake said police are looking a CCTV footage from the bus, and other video, in an effort to locate the suspect.

“We’re still looking for him,” Yake said.

Meantime, TransLink’s third open virtual board meeting in 2020, was livestreamed Monday morning. Its last meeting was four months ago.

Desmond reviewed TransLink’s Safe Operating Action Plan, or SOAP.

“The best thing that our customers can do is make their own healthy choices. Wash your hands, please wear a mask, don’t touch your mouth or eyes while you’re riding,” he said.

Desmond said since TransLink launched its “Wearing is Caring” campaign in June, “and despite considerable awareness building, over the weeks following we only saw about a 30 to 40 per cent compliance with our voluntary request to please mask up.”

homelessphoto

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond. (File photo: Katya Slepian)

As of Aug. 24, it has been mandatory for passengers to wear a mask or other face covering while riding on public transit with the exception of people who can’t for medical reasons.

“We’re now between 92 and 95 per cent compliance,” Desmond said Monday, “based on our own spot checks.

Saturday’s “confrontation” in Surrey, he said, “is concerning to us. Perhaps not unexpected and fortunately this is the only such incident that I’m at least aware of, at this point in time.”

Desmond said TransLink takes all incidents of violence and harassment on the system “very seriously.” That said, “We also ask our customers not to attempt to enforce TransLink’s mandatory mask policy themselves. Please don’t do that.”

Instead, he advises passengers to alert TransLink police or security by using the silent alarms that are on board.

Michel Ladrak, president and general manager of the British Columbia Rapid Transit Company Limited (BCRTC), said most of the assaults against employees are not physical but rather involve swearing, bullying and intimidation. “It’s often drunk people, and you have those everywhere,” he said. “We’ve seen a couple of instances where people coughed deliberately on our staff and said they had COVID.”

The meeting heard that assaults are down on public transit because ridership is down.

Michael McDaniel, president and general manager of Coast Mount Bus Company, said that between Jan. 1 and June 30 of 2020 CMBC recorded 37 operator assaults. That’s lower than 48 in the same period last year and the fewer assaults this year is likely due to a significant drop in ridership because of the pandemic.

McDaniel noted that when the company went to rear-door boarding and ceased fare collection in March to June 1, “just as a bit of a barometer,” the number of calls transit security received for people sleeping on the bus and “other challenges with challenging passengers – those calls literally doubled month-to-month from previous years.

“Obviously, losing a little bit more control of who entered the bus, these incidents obviously increased dramatically,” McDaniel said. “As such, we saw more interactions with problem passengers and our security teams, transit supervisors helped each day to keep our operators safe and our customers safe. But what you did see was more altercations relative to the amount of ridership.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook and follow Tom on Twitter

Crimepublic transitSurrey

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A pair of crashes on Highway 1 between Abbotsford and Chilliwack have snarled traffic in both directions.
Pair of crashes snarl traffic between Abbotsford and Chilliwack

Traffic delays eastbound, large westbound backup

Final numbers won't be known for weeks, but turnout was down across the board in the Fraser Valley and B.C.
Chart: Tyler Olsen
Election turnout down across Fraser Valley and B.C.

Even after thousands of mail-in ballots counted, turnout is likely to fall below 50% in many ridings

NEWS FILE PHOTO
Voters in Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Mission and Langley may head back to polls in 2021

Election of local politicians in BC vote would trigger by-elections in several Fraser Valley cities

Simon Gibson watching the vote count at the Best Western Hotel in Mission. With 98 polls reporting, Gibson leads NDP challenger Alexis by 188 votes. / Kevin Mills photo.
Abbotsford-Mission riding too close to call, mail-in ballots will decide

98 polls reporting: BC Liberal incumbent Simon Gibson leads NDP challenger Pam Alexis by 188 votes

Chelsa Meadus, BC Liberal party candidate for the riding of Maple Ridge-Mission, watches the election results come in with her son Preston, 13, at the Maple Ridge Seniors Activity Centre Saturday evening. (Colleen Flanagan/The News)
NDP’s Bob D’Eith front-runner for Maple Ridge-Mission

D’Eith looking forward to getting back to work as riding’s MLA

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

This Crescent Beach home, located at 12505 22 Ave., was subject of a police search warrant June 18. (Google image)
Civil forfeiture office alleges $2M Surrey home was used to launder cannabis money

Court documents request the home, and $85,000 to be turned over to the government

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Mounties looking for teen boy ‘unlawfully at large’ from Riverview psychiatric hospital

Nolan Godron left the hospital, located at 2721 Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam, without consent on Saturday

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Most Read