Health transport

Masks on PT: the rules

There’s been a bit of confusion about the rules around masks and public transport.

I’m not here to speculate on whether the rules are needed. I’m not an epidemiologist and probably neither are you. While there’s been no COVID-19 community spread in Victoria for many weeks, the recent case of the gentleman who unwittingly caught it in Adelaide hotel quarantine and then used Craigieburn line trains, travelling home with footy fans, is probably exactly the scenario authorities feared.

Face mask signage on a bus

On the station?

The prominent signage (though on the trains is a bit lacking) should mean it’s pretty clear we’re meant to be wearing masks while travelling on public transport. But what about on the stations?

From Geelong Bay FM a few weeks ago:

Masks must be donned before entering train stations…

Bay FM: 14/4/2021: Geelong line mask crackdown

And this yesterday, with the Public Transport Ombudsman tweeting a Herald Sun story implying that masks are required at stations.

From the Herald Sun report:

Commuters will need to wear their masks on the station platform as well as on the train and bus as the State Government pushes for greater COVID protection.

Herald Sun: Masks on and off the train, says Department of Transport

But the report doesn’t say there’s a change to the rules – it just references a Department Of Transport bulk email sent out to people last week reminding people to wear masks on public transport.

What the rules say

So what do the Stay Safe Directions (in other words, the law) say?

The Directions say you must wear a mask while on public transport or in a commercial passenger vehicle, and public transport is specifically defined on page 11:

public transport means a vehicle operated by a passenger transport
company or by a bus company in the provision of a public transport

Victoria: Stay Safe Directions number 21 (effective 7/5/2021)

So, on vehicles. No mention of stations, which appear to fall under the rules covered more broadly when you leave your place of residence or work – that you need to carry a mask, but not wear it.

Here’s the official PTV advice:

When travelling on public transport you must wear a fitted face mask covering your nose and mouth and ensure you wear it for your entire journey. It is also strongly recommended you wear a face mask when you cannot maintain 1.5 metres distance from other people, such as at busy stations and stops.

PTV: Wearing a face mask on public transport

The point here isn’t that wearing masks are compulsory at stations, it’s that if the station is packed, it’s recommended that you wear one. Which makes sense.

So, keep that mask handy for when you’re on board, and if the stop/station is crowded.

And travel safe, everybody.

Update 24/5/2021: Starting today, police and PSO are patrolling and handing out masks, and potentially fining people who refuse to wear them.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

15 replies on “Masks on PT: the rules”

The Herald Sun lying to stir up the anti-mask/anti-lockdown brigade? Unheard of. Paul Barrie voice “I’m Daniel Bowen, welcome to Media Watch”

Some things from me on this issue.

Firstly, I do believe that, this may have something to do with why people are not making use of public transport as they did before the pandemic. Many people hate using these masks. That reason alone is a deal changer for many people.

While many see the deal breaker being, the risk of catching it, I think we all know the chances of that right now is very slim in deed. Leaving only the mask wearing as the only deal breaker reason we have today.

I do find it very difficult keeping a mask on for long periods especially on long distance V/Line routes, to the point where I shall never again use V/Line for this reason.

From what a fellow passenger told me, my understanding is, a person was dragged off a train at Wangaratta by police for not wearing a mask. The offender, took to locking themselves up in the toilet, only for police to kick the door in with one single kick, before dragging off this non-mask wearing offender. He has been charged with, delaying a train too, as the train was delayed while police where doing their job.

“a person was dragged off a train at Wangaratta by police for not wearing a mask…” everything that follows is a result of them not following the rules. It’s unfortunate the police had such a hard time dealing with a criminal but it’s a simple rule to follow with plenty of allowance for people that don’t escalate the situation. Sounds like this bloke was just a jerk.

I will say however that when I was going to Geelong for football I choose to drive because of masks. For these long journeys it really is annoying (particularly if you ran for the train/tram and are hot and sweaty). Personally I think it’s a case of wear one when you can and if you’re asked to put one on don’t refuse and you’ll be ok.

Correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding is that Victoria is the only state where it is mandatory to wear masks on public transport. In the other states I understand that masks only become mandatory for a short period *after* there has been a case of community transmission, following which this rule is again relaxed after 14 days of no transmission. I think the public correctly would question why there is one set of rules in Victoria and a different set of rules in every other state. There should be no inherent reason why the risk of catching COVID is any different between the states.

I agree with TranzitJim. Looking back to how quickly most of the population stopped wearing masks in shopping centres as soon as they were allowed to, I find it hard to believe the argument that some make that the reason for low PT numbers is because people fear catching Covid off of someone not wearing a mask. Given it’s currently the only situation people are required to wear masks (and the only situation many people do wear masks; other crowded situations such as sports, events, shopping etc do not have swathes of people voluntarily wearing them), it seems more likely that people are avoiding PT in order to avoid having to wear a mask.

Is mask-wearing on public transport being enforced at all? Are PT authorised officers able to enforce or only police or health authorised officers?

Conductors on V/Line do remind passengers they should be wearing masks but it’s by no means universal. (The coach driver on the replacement coach home on Friday night did hand a couple out.)

And I have been to the football with no social distancing sitting next to people I don’t know, with no-one wearing masks, and then wear a mask on the football special home.

Incidentally, someone I know was on one of those Craigieburn trains – he got a text a few days later advising to get tested, thanks to a registered myki.

And I guess spare a thought for our on-vehicle PT workers (maybe apart from the train drivers, who don’t seem to be wearing masks) who need to wear a mask for most of their working day.

Thanks for the clarification.
I am surprised some organisations have got it wrong. Wearing a mask “when travelling” seems crystal clear to me. When you’re standing on a platform, you’re NOT travelling!

In contrasts with reports of people allegedly being dragged off trains for not wearing a mask, what I’ve seen on metro trains so far was of that PSOs asking if people have their masks if they aren’t wearing them, and those that don’t have one are given a mask, free of charge.

I don’t want to make any assumptions here but perhaps there are more to those stories of people getting “dragged off”.

Face masks should be provided at all train stations and for a reasonable price e.g. 50c (in bulk lots they can cost less than 5c individually; the government shouldn’t be profiteering from mandatory requirements anyway – any more than $1 and it’s a deal-breaker). In some cases it is impossible to buy masks on the fly because there are either no shops which actually sell them, or they’re not open e.g. at 5:30AM or 10PM, or there are no shops whatsoever in the area (e.g. Burnley station for an inner-city example; it’s too easy to mention a desolate outer-suburban station like Kananook or a random bus stop in the middle of nowhere). If it isn’t possible to supply masks at unmanned stations (due to the cost of supplying and maintaining vending machines, and making sure they aren’t vandalised), at least offer them at all premium stations.

I have yet to see a sign about mask wearing on an actual train which is pretty poor in my view. Last week I repeatedly asked a staff member at South Yarra why they don’t give a reminder of the rules around mask wearing when they are actually standing on the platform announcing trains (which they do at Sth Yarra, platform 6). She repeatedly (and wilfully) misunderstood my question and said they were not authorised to enforce mask wearing. Of course I was not suggesting they should enforce it, but that they give a reminder as passengers are entering the train. I’m glad that there is a blitz on now, as the trains are slowly filling up, and we do need to be vigilant, as shown by the new “possible” cases that emerged today.

Well short of enforcing any mask rules, I’ve seen several PSOs not wear masks themselves.

I’m not on the trains again for two reasons 1) masks. every breath fogs my glasses and makes it unsafe to step in and out of PT vehicles while fogged up. 2) Well my Myki expired with heaps of money on it while in lock down.. It’s too hard to fill in all the forms for money transfers. The PTV app has some functionality for managing Myki but not money transfers. and my login keeps failing. It’s all just too much of a hastle.

@Wallfly, obviously everything’s changing from Friday…

Some people have figured out how to use masks with their glasses. There are solutions out there, I believe mostly involving securing the top of the mask tightly to your nose, so air doesn’t escape and fog up your glasses.

For the Myki card, the simplest way is to take it to a staffed station. They can give you a free replacement and transfer the balance on the spot; no login required.

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