MTA to step up mask enforcement starting Sept. 23

Sept. 23, 2021
The authority has distributed more than 25,000 masks in the past two weeks to riders in the New York City region and will hand out $50 fines for non-compliant riders.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) says it will step up system wide mask enforcement of riders starting Sept. 23. The authority has distributed more than 50,000 free masks to riders, including 25,000 in the past two weeks during the first phase of a “mask blitz.” The second phase of the blitz is meant to communicate to riders that mask usage isn’t a choice, but a requirement.

The federal government has mandated the proper use of masks on public transit conveyances and while in facilities for both riders and employees since February 2021. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently extended the mandate through Jan. 18, 2022.

“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.”

Complimentary masks are not the only thing MTA will be handing out, with the authority saying non-compliant riders “will be more likely to face a $50 fine” that was implemented in September 2020.

The authority reports MTA police officers have had more than 88,000 positive encounters with customers since the $50 fine was implemented, but MTA says the goal is to increase mask usage on transit to nearly 100 percent on subways, buses, commuter railroads and paratransit vehicles.

MTA says the latest surveys following the mask blitz show that mask compliance onboard buses is approximately 94 percent, 87 percent on subways, 92 percent on the Long Island Rail Road and 95 percent on Metro-North Railroad. As a comparison, a January 2021 survey by MTA found a mask usage rate of 97 percent on subways and 99 percent on buses.

“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 Acting Chief of the MTA Police Department Joseph McGrann. “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.”

MTA started its Mask Force in July 2020 to promote the use of masks on public transit to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Mask Force has provided more than 800,000 masks to customers, including 60,000 child size masks. However, that is a fraction of the 11.1 million MTA has made available to customers. Mask dispensers have been installed on buses and masks remain available at subway station booths and onboard commuter railroad trains.

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.