By Mark Hallum
First it was a matter of respect, now it is a matter of enforcement.
Those riding on subways and buses, where bare faces are currently banned as it is, will now face a $50 fine from either MTA police or NYPD if they further refuse to wear a mask, according to agency officials and Governor Andrew Cuomo.
But those experiencing enforcement from this policy change will be far and few between, New York City Transit President Sarah Feinberg says, as surveys show that mask compliance is high and those who do not have a mask accept one when offered.
“Transit is key to people coming back to work and coming back to the city, so even if it’s just one or two people in the system, they do not have the right to endanger the lives of anyone else and frankly they don’t have the right to scare anyone away from the system,” Feinberg said. “S, again, this is really a last resort for the very few people who refuse to wear a mask when offered and it will be enforced by the MTA police and we’ll be dependent on NYPD for enforcement as well.”
The new enforcement plan is designed to send a message to the public that mask compliance is being enforced to the highest extent of the law in order to draw ridership back to system and aid the MTA through its current financial crisis from COVID-19, according to Cuomo.
“We want to make sure people feel comfortable coming back to public transportation… The last variable is are the other riders on the trains recognizing social distancing and are they wearing masks. That’s what people want to know,” Cuomo said. “If they refuse to wear a mask they will be evicted from the system. If they are not wearing a mask we will enforce the mask wearing rule.”
Compliance surveys show that 96% on buses, 90% on subways, but lower than 90% on Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road, riders of which will also be subject to the same fines, according to MTA Chair Pat Foye.
“We have a very robust messaging and communication with signs on [subways, buses, LIRR and Metro-North] making the point that mask wearing on public transit is mandatory,” Foye said.
The MTA said those who wear a mask over the chin only or not pulling the mask high enough to cover their nose could be subject to a fine if they refuse, but did not see this as a likely scenario. Feinberg told reporters that the fine is directed mainly at commuters who refuse to wear a face covering entirely.
During the height of New York’s wave of the COVID-19 outbreak, the MTA saw a 90% decline across all its systems eliminating a major revenue stream for the agency; fares and tolls which amount to about half of their cashflow.