Secretary Buttigieg highlights importance of transit and passenger worker safety

Feb. 8, 2021
The secretary visited Washington, D.C.’s Union Station and visited with transit and passenger rail workers to discuss efforts designed to protect workers and the public.

Two days after being sworn in as the Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg visited Washington, D.C.’s Union Station to discuss the importance of the recently announced federal mask requirements for public transportation employees and users to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 and highlighted the Biden Administration’s support for additional COVID-19 relief funding for public transportation. 

Secretary Buttigieg met with transit and passenger rail workers, as well as officials from Amtrak, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), Maryland Transit Administration and the Virginia Railway Express.

Last week, a rule went into effect requiring riders on public transportation vehicles and in transportation hubs to wear face masks. Secretary Buttigieg noted the importance mask wearing, physical distancing, appropriate ventilation and timely testing can have to reduce the risk of travelers spreading COVID-19. While vaccinations continue to roll out across the nation, a report published Sunday has found a highly transmissible variant of the virus first identified in the United Kingdom is doubling in the United States every 10 days although it remains at low levels.

"Secretary Buttigieg's decision to prioritize meeting with frontline workers just two days after being sworn in is a promising sign for the transit industry as we work to recover from the pandemic and welcome customers back when they feel it's safe to ride with us again,” said WMATA General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul J. Wiedefeld. “Safety is at the top of everyone's minds as we continue to work through this challenging time, and we appreciate the steps the Department of Transportation has taken to mandate the wearing of face masks on mass transit nationwide. We welcome the secretary’s support to encourage all customers to wear face masks to protect themselves, other riders and our employees, and we look forward to working with him and his team as we push for additional financial relief so we can continue providing safe, reliable service to help the region and our economy recover.”

During the Washington Union Station event, Secretary Buttigieg underscored that dependable public transit systems are critical for a robust and equitable economy recovery.  

"We depend on many essential workers for our economy and for our way of life. And while many Americans are wrestling with the complexities of working from home, many other Americans don't have the opportunity, or the option, to work from home, and they are supported by these extraordinary workers who look after the safety, efficiency and effectiveness of American travel," said Secretary Buttigieg. "Above all, I want to say thank you to all of the workers and leadership who have facilitated essential trips and have delivered essential goods and services during the pandemic, and for their dedication to the safety and prosperity of this country and the traveling public."  

The Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan includes $20 billion in emergency funding relief for the transit industry and the U.S. Department of Transportation notes the plan would help keep agencies from having to lay off transit workers and cutting the routes that essential workers rely on every day, while making these transit systems more resilient and ensuring that communities across the country maintain the access to opportunity that public transportation provides.

At the end of January, an analysis performed by EBP US Inc. for the American Public Transportation Association determined the transit industry is facing a $39.3-billion projected shortfall through 2023.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.