A new executive order, effective September 14, enables authorities to fine anyone riding public transit in New York without a mask.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he hopes this will help keep mask compliance high.
New York is the first major city to enact a monetary fine for those who don’t use masks on public transit.
While masks have been mandatory on New York public transit since April, Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced a $50 dollar fine for anyone who doesn’t follow the mandate.
The executive order, effective September 14, applies to both riders and employees. The order will be enforced by the Metropolitan Transit Authority Police (MTAPD), NYPD and Bridge and Tunnel Officers — not MTA frontline employees.
According to the announcement, 90% of riders have been using masks, but this mandate will hopefully “drive mask compliance even higher.” This is a different figure than the one provided by the Transport Workers Union Local 100, which said about 60% of riders were wearing masks as of this summer, according to The Wall Street Journal. The union represents about 40,000 transit workers.
The mandate is “an important step towards making the bus and subway system safer,” the union’s president, Tony Utano, said in a statement.
“This is good news for both transit workers and riders. Anyone who doesn’t wear a mask, or some other face covering, puts everyone at risk. We recognize that a fine could be hardship for some. You know what’s harder? Going to a funeral because someone didn’t wear a mask on a bus or train,” Utano added.
Gov. Cuomo said in the statement that mask compliance “remains very high.”
“I have asked the MTA to come up with an enforcement regimen so people know that not only are the cars clean and the stations clean, but the riders will be acting appropriately. We have to be able to say to the riding public that everyone will be wearing masks — and if they refuse to wear a mask they will be penalized,” said Cuomo.
This mandate is part of a bigger project, called “Operation Respect,” which encourages mask wearing while using public transit. The project also includes a “Mask Force” to hand out masks to those who may need them, and vending machines where riders can purchase masks and other PPE.
Interim President of New York City Transit Sarah Feinberg said “the fine is a last resort measure.”
It’s important to note that the executive order does apply to all New York City transit, which includes the Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Railroad, which go to Connecticut and Long Island, respectively. Buses are included as well.
This comes after the MTA announced in August that bus rides will no longer be free, after placing a moratorium on front-door boarding to protect bus drivers.
So far, New York City is the only state with a monetary fine for not wearing a mask on public transit.
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