Photo Courtesy of Marc Hermann/MTA
“The message is clear: Wear a mask,” MTA Police Chief McGrann said.
By Forum Staff
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has been stepping up mask enforcement throughout the system and those who do not comply with mask requirements will be more likely to face a $50 fine.
Mask-wearing is a federal requirement on trains, buses and paratransit vehicles, MTA officials noted.
Following Labor Day, the MTA began on a blitz of mask distribution, with staff and police officers strategically stationed at subway and railroad hubs, and bus terminals, distributing tens of thousands of free masks to unmasked riders. This continues an approach established last September, when the MTA implemented a $50 fine to help increase mask compliance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The goal of heightened enforcement, according to the MTA, is to increase mask usage across all agencies, and to return to 2020 and early 2021 compliance levels where nearly 100 percent of riders wore masks onboard subways, buses, commuter railroads and paratransit vehicles. Since the $50 fine was implemented on Sept. 14, 2020, MTA police officers have had over 88,000 “positive encounters” with customers. This has included the distribution of more than 50,000 free masks overall, 25,000 in the two weeks since the blitz began on Sept. 7.
“The COVID-19 Delta variant must be taken seriously, and with more customers expected to be in the system it is vital to remind everyone of the importance of getting vaccinated and wearing a mask,” MTA Chief Safety Officer Patrick Warren said two weeks ago. “The science is clear, face-coverings help reduce the spread of germs and viruses, and over the next several weeks we will be out across our operating region, reinforcing that message.”
Since the mask blitz began at key transit hubs, mask usage has increased. Latest surveys show that mask compliance onboard buses is approximately 94 percent, 87 percent on subways, 92 percent on the LIRR and 95 percent on Metro-North.
To date the MTA has made 11.1 million masks available for customers; more than 800,000 free masks have been distributed to customers.
“Promoting mask usage is an important component to protecting one another,” Warren added. “To support the use of masks we have provided tens of millions of free masks to customers, complemented by a robust communication endeavor. These efforts have seen mask usage recently rise on buses and trains. This next phase of our blitz will reinforce that wearing a mask is not optional. Vaccinated or not, you must wear a mask when traveling on public transit.”
Free masks remain available for any customer that forgets a mask at subway station booths and onboard commuter railroad trains. Distribution efforts continue to be complemented with digital messaging and announcements in stations.
“Our officers have surged into major hubs to remind riders to wear their mask, and have handed out 25,000 free masks in just two weeks,” said Joseph McGrann, acting chief of the MTA Police Department. “In the coming weeks officers will step up enforcement efforts on commuter rails and work with our partners at the NYPD for the subway and bus system. The message is clear: Wear a mask. Riders who are still not getting this message will now see the cost associated with that thinking.”