In a big win for the unions that represent city subway and bus workers and those employed by the commuter rail lines, transit riders who fail to comply with the state's mask requirement will be subject to a $50 fine as of Sept. 14.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Pat Foye made the announcement on a Sept. 10 conference call with Governor Cuomo, who requested that the agency impose the sanction. "The rule will be effective immediately upon filing with the Secretary of State on Monday," Mr. Foye said.
The penalty for noncompliance covers the city bus and subways systems as well as Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road.
The mask mandate was instituted by Mr. Cuomo back in April. Enforcement will be the responsibility of the NYPD, the MTA Police Department, and MTA Bridge and Tunnel officers.
"Labor Day has come and gone. The volume is up," Mr. Cuomo told reporters. "And I've 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 riders will be acting appropriately."
The MTA is applying for the sanction from the Secretary of State using an emergency provision of state law which also provides for a 60-day public comment period, before the MTA's board adopts a final rule. But riders will immediately be subject to the fine Sept. 14.
"Transit is key to people coming back to the city and coming back to work," interim New York City Transit President Sarah Feinberg said. "So even if it's just one or two people in the system, they do not have the right to endanger anyone else, and frankly they don't have the right to scare anyone away from the system."
TWU Leader: Good News
"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 in a statement. "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 a hardship for some. You know what's harder? Going to a funeral because someone didn't wear a mask on a bus or train."
While both MTA leadership and Mr. Cuomo have insisted compliance "remains high" among riders across the MTA system, surveys done by the TWU showed only a 60 percent rate of compliance on some bus lines.
The unions that represent MTA workers told a state legislative panel Aug. 25 that they wanted the police to enforce the state's mask requirement and urged that there be a $50 fine for non-compliance.
There have been 131 MTA employees, the majority of them represented by Local 100, who died from the coronavirus. More than 10,000 MTA employees were quarantined and returned to work. An unknown number have not reported back to work and are still dealing with health complications.
During the hearing, Anthony Simon, general chairman of SMART, which represents LIRR personnel, testified, "To try and ask someone to put on a mask is a very difficult situation for a front-line conductor. He or she either gets spit on, harassed or threatened. You might have seen the wanted poster out now out" for a customer who pulled "out a knife on a conductor and then jumped out the window before he could be caught."
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