CALGARY -- Monday marked the first day Calgary Transit workers provided passengers with non-medical masks at several city CTrain stations.

The new initiative hopes to increase ridership while keeping passengers and drivers safe. 

Calgary Transit was given 200,000 non-medical masks by the province and will be handing them out at stations from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on weekdays. Masks can also be picked up at Calgary Transit’s two customer service centres in the downtown core (125 Seventh Ave. S.E. and 237 Seventh Ave. S.W.)

While wearing a mask on buses and trains is not mandatory, it is encouraged. 

The distribution of masks isn't the only initiative underway to reduce the risk of the spread of the novel coronavirus on public transit. New barriers are being installed on all city buses to allow passengers to resume entering through the front door. The hope is to have every bus retrofitted with a heavy duty vinyl sheet to protect drivers by July 1. Shuttle buses already have plexiglass barriers in place. 

To ensure social distancing is observed, roughly every second seat on transit will remain blocked off until a wider solution is available to combat the spread of COVID-19. 

The city says that it hopes to increase demand after losing about 90 per cent of transit ridership since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Calgary Transit has already cut 17,000 service hours — roughly a third of its operations — and about 430 transit workers have also been laid off

The city estimates it is losing anywhere from $10 to $15 million every single week as a result of lost revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.