CALGARY -- Calgary Transit will return to full service capacity and lift its COVID-19-related seating restrictions starting Monday. 

The transit authority said in a tweet last week that it will rely on the City of Calgary’s mandatory mask bylaw to keep riders safe.   

The decision to return to full capacity was backed by public health experts who suggest masks will provide enough protection even when people aren’t able to physical distance. Protocols and restrictions could return if there is a noticeable spike in COVID-19 cases. 

Dr. Vanessa Meier-Stephenson, an infectious disease expert at the University of Calgary, says there is cause for concern with Calgary Transit's removal of seating restrictions and passengers need to embrace other protective measures.

"We have multiple layers of protection, with the masks, the hand-washing and the distancing--we're going to peel back one of those," said Meier-Stephenson. "Certainly it does raise concerns. I realize that, in and of itself, there are challenges in keeping the distances on the various public transit and trains which is why those masks and hand-washing are going to be that much more important to protect yourself and others around you.

 "I will say that I am concerned but it is something that we need to move forward with and just be very vigilant about touching our faces, about trying to protect ourselves from direct contact with other respiratory secretions."

Calgary Transit has been tracking mask use and says about 90 per cent of riders are wearing one on CTrains and about 80 to 85 per cent are wearing a face covering on buses. 

While the high compliance rate is reassuring, public transit officials are still encouraging riders to physical distance when possible, practice good hygiene and stay at home if they are feeling sick. 

Calgary Transit will also continue to regularly sanitize all of its buses and CTrains to reduce the potential spread of the virus. 

Although safety is top of mind, there is no denying that a decline in ridership has significantly impacted the City of Calgary financially. 

The latest stats from the city show that Calgary Transit collected just 12 per cent of its normal cash revenue in the month of May and can expect a financial shortfall of $105 million by the end of 2020. 

Ridership is now at about 25 to 30 per cent of what it normally is. In response to the decline, the city cut 430 jobs and 25 bus routes in May. 

Officials hope confidence in the transit system will increase as ridership increases. 

One of the ways transit is encouraging Calgarians to purchase tickets safely is through its new mobile ticketing app MyFare which was launched on July 1. The new app allows customers to purchase tickets online without having to visit a ticket office or touch machines at CTrain stations.