EDMONTON -- The Edmonton Transit Service says fall is one of its busiest times of the year, but things are different during the pandemic.

ETS has seen an uptick in users with K-12 and post-secondary classes underway, but ridership is still at approximately 50 per cent of pre-COVID-19 levels.

“We’re starting to see a gradual return to transit,” ETS branch manager Eddie Robar said. “We’re starting to welcome customers back, and we’ll continue to monitor service closely to help support Edmontonians’ travel needs.”

Transit fares resumed in June after ETS was free since the early days of the pandemic. ETS products such as monthly passes are being sold at stores like Sobeys, Safeway, Shoppers and Rexall, while low income Ride Transit Program passes are being sold online or by calling 780-423-RIDE.

ETS School Bus Special routes are back for public and Catholic schools in Edmonton.

In an attempt to keep workers and riders safe, buses and trains are being disinfected regularly and there are shields in place to separate drivers and customers.

Even though ridership is low, Robar says ETS is seeing crowding on its busier routes.

"We're not going to be able to maintain social distance, which is why we're pushing the masks so much," Robar said. "Overcrowding, for our operators, they'll call in to our control centre and we have support buses that we send out to try and manage that."

As of Monday, 98 per cent of bus riders ad 88 per cent of LRT users wore masks since they became mandatory in all indoor spaces in August.