In response to a Freedom of Information request by CT Examiner, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority released information showing that the agency has not issued any citations on Metro-North trains to riders for failing to wear a mask.
“When we see someone on a train without a mask, our approach is to hand that person a mask, not a summons,” MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said. “As a result, we’ve had tens of thousands of positive interactions with customers, promoting the health and safety of all riders.”
Transit workers have issued 38 summons for refusing to wear a mask on public transit since MTA instituted fines on Sept. 14, 2020 — that number includes riders on New York City subways and buses, and the Long Island Railroad.
Failing to wear a mask can result in a $50 fine in New York and $100 in Connecticut.
Jim Cameron, founder of the Commuter Action Group, said he has seen a daily stream of complaints about riders and even conductors not wearing masks on Metro-North, and the mask mandate not being enforced.
“The lack of mask-wearing is not a political statement, it is a matter of public health and I think it needs to be emphasized, whether it’s an MTA rule or a federal rule,” Cameron said. “If it’s not enforced, people see that and then are not compliant, and it still puts people at risk.”
The authority recorded 29,063 instances where someone was asked to “adjust” a mask, and supplied 18,652 masks to people who were not wearing them.
Since the beginning of 2020, MTA reported that it had issued 772 citations on Metro-North trains, but none for failing to wear masks.
Donovan said that the summons were issued when a person refused to wear a mask. MTA Police and MTA Bridge and Tunnel officers who have been reassigned to patrol masks are enforcing the rule, he said.
Donovan said that anyone uncomfortable because another rider is not wearing a mask should contact a crew member who can speak with the rider and provide a mask.
Cameron said the mandate put conductors in a weird position where they’re the ones asking riders to put on their masks, but don’t have any power to enforce the rule. MTA police are few and far between in Connecticut, and aren’t riding trains to enforce mask wearing, he said.
“I think people pretty quickly realized this mask rule was a sham, because it was not being enforced,” Cameron said.