The MTA is ramping up enforcement of mask-wearing on subways, buses and commuter rails after issuing just three $50 violations all summer, officials said Wednesday.
MTA surveys show mask usage has crept up in recent weeks after dropping in July, when the city’s COVID-19 rates were much lower. But mask enforcement has been relatively light — the MTA’s police force has issued just 41 summonses since the fine went into effect in September 2020.
“We need everyone to do their part and mask up,” MTA chief safety officer Pat Warren said during a press conference outside the transportation authority’s downtown Manhattan headquarters.
“While the fine has been in place since last fall, we began wrapping up enforcement on Sept. 7 to drive compliance,” Warren said. “That includes stationing MTA police and staff at strategic subway railroad hubs and bus terminals to meet workers heading back to the office and students coming to school for the first time in person.”
As part of the enforcement blitz, MTA police has handed out 25,000 masks, Warren said. No summonses had been issued this month as of Sept. 21, according to stats shared at the press conference.
“Very few [fines] were handed out over the year because there are very few people that actually do not comply with the rules,” Warren said.
Straphangers are given an opportunity to mask up before being penalized, officials said.
“If they’re handed the mask and they refuse to wear a mask, or they immediately take it off afterwards — some kind of recalcitrant behavior — you’re probably going to receive a summons,” Warren told reporters.
MTA surveys have found mask-wearing rates of 94 percent on buses, 87 percent on subways, 92 percent on LIRR and 95 percent on Metro-North. A good chunk of those riders are not wearing their masks correctly — around 14 percent on subways and buses, according to publicly available stats.
Masks are required indoors at stations and on trains and buses, but not on outdoor transit platforms, per CDC guidance, Warren said.
Pressed on viral videos and photos of cops not wearing masks where they are required to do so, MTA Police Chief Joseph McGrann — who does not supervise NYPD officers in the transit system — said his department penalizes cops who flout mask rules.
Eight cops and two supervisors have been disciplined in “the past few weeks” for not wearing masks “appropriately in public situations,” McGrann said.
“My officers are also members of the public, my officers also make mistakes. My officers receive discipline when it’s appropriate,” he said.
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