MTA, other transit agencies look to boost mask wearing, social distancing as COVID cases rise

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — As COVID-19 cases continue to surge in the Tri-State area, public transit agencies are pushing for greater mask compliance on buses and trains.

“With COVID cases rising nationwide, this is not the time to get lax,” said MTA CEO and Chairman Pat Foye.

While mask compliance is at 95% in subway stations, and on buses and trains, Foye thinks that number can improve.

Speaking alongside transit leaders from the Tri-State area, Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton said Port Authority police officers have stopped and talked to around 44,000 people about wearing their masks.

“To date the Port Authority has issued five summonses for refusal to wear a mask across all of our facilities,” Cotton said.

Foye says they've distributed hundreds of thousands of masks across the MTA, while trying to stay away from handing out tickets.

“Our goal is not to raise revenue or to issue summonses. Our goal is to have people wear the mask appropriately,” he said.

Kevin Corbett, the head of New Jersey Transit, says mask compliance keeps people safe and safety is their top priority – but they are also worried about funding.

“We are competing traditionally, even when there is funding and a more generous congress and White House, they also tend to be more generous to everyone else, so we're fighting for funding with education and healthcare, a lot of other things,” Corbett said.

Transit leaders say they are all worried that the longer the pandemic goes on, the more it'll hurt the bottom line.

“Our estimate over two years is that we will lose $3 billion worth of revenue,” Port Authority’s Cotton said.

Without federal help and with ridership down, agency leaders say things like fare hikes and service cuts are not out of the question.

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