NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that anyone who doesn't wear a mask on MTA buses, subways or trains could face a $50 fine.
"We want people on Metro-North, LIRR, subway system. They know the cars are cleaner, disinfected. 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. If I get on the LIRR, Metro-North, subway car, will other people be we wearing masks? Yes, 90%. Well, I'm nervous about COVID. I want to make sure that compliance is very high. And they are right," the governor said.
Cuomo said that while mask compliance in the MTA system is very high, he wants to make sure that people feel comfortable coming back to public transportation.
He asked the MTA to come up with an enforcement plan for people who are not wearing masks.
"At the governor's direction, on Monday the MTA will file a rule on an emergency rule basis with the New York Secretary of State," said Pat Foye, MTA Chairman and CEO. "That rule will provide for a $50 fine for failure to comply with the mask directive."
He noted that mask compliance is 96% on buses, 90% on subways, and well over 90% on Metro-North and LIRR.
"Achieving universal mask compliance is our goal," Foye said. "It's a matter of respect for ones fellow co commuters and MTA employees."
Mask compliance will be enforced by the MTA Police, in some places MTA Bridge and Tunnel Officers, and the NYPD.
"This is targeting the small population of folks who are refusing to wear a mask," said Sarah Feinberg, Interim President of the New York Transit Authority. "There may be folks in the system who are wearing a mask improperly, the weather is hot, they are uncomfortable or for whatever reason. Generally, those are not the folks who refuse to put a mask on properly when directed."
"This is an important step towards making the bus and subway system safer, and we are grateful that the Governor heard us on this issue," Local 100 President Tony Utano said. "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."
The MTA has launched an aggressive public awareness campaign, "Operation Respect," as part of a multi-layered strategy to encourage riders to wear a face covering while on public transit.
So far, the MTA has distributed more than 4 million masks to customers. Hundreds of volunteers with the MTA's "Mask Force" are distributing these masks to riders systemwide.
The MTA has also deployed vending machines at subway, LIRR and Metro-North stations, allowing customers to buy COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE).
Additionally, the MTA has installed free surgical mask dispensers inside 360 buses across 15 routes to help further protect customers while on board.
There will be a 60-day public comment period after which the MTA board will consider the public comments and adopt a final rule. But, the rule will be effective immediately upon filing on Monday, Sept. 14.
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