Gov. Andrew Cuomo and officials from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced regulations to ensure people that utilize public transit methods are keeping themselves and others safe with a $50 fine for those who refuse to wear a mask due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Cuomo announced last Thursday that the transit authority was required to develop a plan to increase mask compliance on all of its buses, subways, and railroad lines. The new measure, put into effect on Monday, is an extension of Cuomo’s April 17 executive order that required public transportation employees and patrons to wear a face-covering while riding.
“While mask compliance in the MTA system remains very high, we want to make sure that people feel comfortable coming back to public transportation,” Cuomo said. “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.”
Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye said mask compliance has been more prominent on city buses throughout the state, 96 percent, compared to the Long Island Rail Road, 90 percent. Foye said he hoped the $50 fine will incentivize customers to wear face coverings for maximum safety around other patrons and transit employees.
“Health experts agree that wearing a mask is the single best thing we can do to limit the spread of Covid-19,” Foye said. “The $50 fine gives us another tool to help achieve our goal of universal mask usage on New York City Transit subways and buses, Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad.”
The transportation authority also launched an “Operation Respect” campaign, to aid in encouraging people to be in compliance with coronavirus protocols. The agency made 4 million masks from the state and New York City available for no cost at station booths throughout bus, subway, and railroad stations throughout the state.
Additionally, the agency has also placed vending machines containing personal protective equipment such as hand sanitizer, masks, gloves, and sanitizing wipes at various transit stations throughout the state. Surgical mask dispensers have also been placed inside more than 350 buses throughout the state.
The announcement comes more than a week after a state audit conducted by the office of New York’s comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, outlined the transportation authority’s grim future if federal aid was not provided.
Without the $12 billion in federal aid, officials said, the initial budget cuts will total $2.4 billion over the next two years. Officials said expenses cannot be reduced quickly and significantly enough to offset a 40 percent revenue reduction the organization has experienced and will continue to expect.
“The MTA needs federal support to manage this crisis,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “The alternative is unthinkable. Without additional federal aid, the MTA is considering drastic cuts and fare hikes that won’t come near what it needs, and in fact will extend the problems we face, not solve them.”
Transit authority officials discussed potential measures that they would take if no federal aid was provided such as eliminating more than 800 Long Island Rail Road jobs, raising fares by 10 percent in three years, and delaying the East Side Access Project, which allows for a second railroad terminal in Manhattan.
The organization received $3.9 billion in federal aid in the previously passed CARES Act, but ran through the funding by July, officials said.
“We’re about to see the worst train wreck in the system’s history,” Transportation Authority board member Kevin Law said. “The potential cuts to the Long Island Rail Road are terrifying.”