NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Commuters who refuse to wear a mask while riding New York City's subways, buses and commuter trains can now face a $50 fine, effective Monday.
Since April, it's been mandatory for riders on the MTA system to wear a mask, but now if that rule isn't followed there will be consequences.
"That rule will provide for a $50 fine for failure to comply with the mask directive on subways, buses, Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North," said MTA Chairman Pat Foye, adding that wearing a mask is "a matter of respect for one's fellow co-commuters and MTA employees."
Mask compliance is already relatively high at 90% on the subway, and higher on buses and commuter trains, but Foye said achieving "universal mask compliance" is the agency's goal.
"Our goal here is not to hand out fines or summonses, our goal here is to drive mask usage and compliance," Foye told WCBS 880. "We hope to issue as few fines as possible, but that will help drive to 100% usage and compliance on subways, buses and the commuter rails."
Foye stressed this measure is all about public health and safety, not about revenues.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he is seeing roads starting to fill up, and hopes this new rule will help bring people back to transit.
"New York City cannot deal with the vehicular traffic of everyone commuting by car," Cuomo said. "This is about building confidence. We want to make sure that people feel comfortable coming back."
Cuomo said fines will not apply to those have a mask but are wearing it incorrectly, say for instance below the nose, which the governor quipped has never been a problem for him.
"I have a very large nose so my nose keeps the mask up," Cuomo said.
New York City Transit Interim President Sarah Feinberg says mask enforcement will be done by the NYPD, MTA Police and Bridge and Tunnel Officers, not individual bus operators and train conductors.
"They've already got plenty to do and that's not their job," Feinberg said.
The transit workers union had been concerned about an uptick in employee assaults as a result of these new rules.