Since the mask blitz began at key transit hubs, mask usage has increased.

Since the mask blitz began at key transit hubs, mask usage has increased.

Marc A. Hermann

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is 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.

Following Labor Day, the MTA began on a blitz of mask distribution, with MTA 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 in September 2020, when the MTA implemented a $50 fine to help increase mask compliance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The goal of heightened enforcement is to increase mask usage across all agencies, and to return to 2020 and early 2021 compliance levels where nearly 100% of riders wore masks onboard subways, buses, commuter railroads, and paratransit vehicles. Since the $50 fine was implemented on Sept. 14, 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 September 7.

“Promoting mask usage is an important component to protecting one another,” said Patrick Warren, MTA chief safety officer. “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.”

Since the mask blitz began at key transit hubs, mask usage has increased. Latest surveys show that mask compliance onboard buses are approximately 94%, 87% on subways, 92% on the LIRR, and 95% on Metro-North.

To date the MTA has made 11.1 million masks available for customers. Through the authority’s trailblazing Mask Force, which launched in July 2020, more than 800,000 free masks have been distributed to customers.