NY Governor Cuomo & MTA Announce $50 Fine for Refusal to Wear a Mask
NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, out of concerns over increased NYC mass transit ridership signed an executive order ordering the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) to bolster mask compliance within the city’s mass transit system.
The emergency rule would provide a $50 fine for anyone refusing to comply with the mask guidelines while riding on the subway, bus, Long Island Rail Road or Metro North. It’s to take effect on Monday, September 14.
“There will be a 60-day public comment period after, which the MTA board will consider the public comments and adopt a final rule,” said Pat Foye, Chairman of the MTA. “Again, the rule will be effective immediately upon filing with the Secretary of State on Monday.”
Audio is from our own recording of the day’s tele-press briefing held by the Governor.
Corresponding Transcript furnished by the Office of the Governor of NY State follows:
“After Labor Day, traffic on the roads increases dramatically. That’s always been the way. Traffic gets lighter in the summer; traffic gets heavier in the New York City area after Labor Day. And markedly so. I’ve experienced it all my life. It’s a good sign that people are coming back to work in New York City. That’s a positive. We encourage that. When you look around the world, at cities that have reopened, almost all across the board, the first wave of reopening is people drive into the metropolitan area. Because they feel safer in their vehicles than they do on public transportation. And that’s understandable. My whole message for months has been social distancing, be careful, protect yourself. So if you leave your house and you get in your car and you drive to work, that is apparently the safest course. I understand that.
It is also a situation that is fraught with peril on a different front. New York City cannot deal with the vehicular traffic of everyone commuting by car and not taking public transportation. Now, Pat and Sarah are on the phone. The MTA has done an extraordinary job throughout this whole COVID pandemic. It really has been a masterful admiration and managerial act. The decision to curtail train service in the late night hours so that they could disinfect the entire system – just think, that is an unimaginable chore and they did it. And they did it. The trains have never been cleaner. Homeless people have been better served after years of going around and around and around. Homeless people are – nobody wants people sleeping on the trains. They’re now going into the shelter system, getting services they need. So they’ve done a masterful job.
Mask compliance on the MTA system is very, very high. It’s roughly 90 percent, but we want to make sure that people feel comfortable coming back to public transportation. We want people on Metro North, we want them on the Long Island Rail Road. We want them on the subway system. They know the cars are cleaner. They know they’re disinfected. The last variable is, are the other riders on the trains recognizing social distancing and are they wearing masks? That’s what people want to know. If I get on the Long Island Rail Road, Metro North, subway car, will other people be wearing masks? Yes. Ninety percent of the time.
Well, I’m nervous about COVID, I want to make sure that compliance is very high and they’re right. I said to the MTA, you have to come up with an enforcement plan for people who are not wearing masks. We have to be able to say to the riding public, “Yes, everyone will be wearing masks.” If they don’t have a mask, MTA will give them a mask to wear. If they refuse to wear a mask, they will be evicted from the system. If they’re not wearing a mask, we will enforce the mask wearing rule.
We have to be able to say that to give riders comfort to reengage the system. Labor Day has come and gone, the volume is up 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 the riders will be acting appropriately. With that, let me turn it over to Pat and Sarah to explain what the MTA is going to do in terms of compliance. Pat?
Pat Foye: Thank you, Governor. As a result of the Governor’s prior Executive Order, wearing a mask on public transit is mandatory. The Governor’s Executive Order has the force of State law. Compliance on subways, buses, Metro North and Long Island Rail Road, mask compliance remains high. Ninety-six percent on buses, 90 percent on subways, well over 90 percent on both Metro North and Long Island Rail Road. We want to drive it even higher.
Achieving universal mask compliance is our goal. Global health experts agree that wearing a mask is the best thing that all of us can do to limit the spread of COVID-19. As the Governor has said in the past, it’s a matter of respect for one’s fellow co-commuters and MTA employees.
I’ll note that we have distributed over 4 million to customers on Metro North and Long Island Rail Road, subways and buses. Those masks have been provided by New York State and New York City. At the Governor’s direction, on Monday the MTA will file a rule on an emergency basis with the New York Secretary of State. That new rule will provide a $50 fine for failure to comply with the mask directive on subways, buses, Long Island Rail Road and Metro North.
That emergency rule will be effective immediately upon filing on Monday. It will provide for the $50 fine I just mentioned. There will be a 60-day public comment period after, which the MTA board will consider the public comments and adopt a final rule. Again, the rule will be effective immediately upon filing with the Secretary of State on Monday.
Lastly, the Governor noted that extraordinary work has been done on disinfecting subway stations and Long Island Rail Road, Metro North, buses and Access-A-Ride vehicles. I do want to thank our workforces and New York City Transit MTA Bus, Long Island Rail Road and Metro North.
Sarah Feinberg: Thanks, Pat. It’s Sarah Feinberg it’s great to be with you, Governor, as well. As Pat said, again, we’re seeing very high compliance of mask usage on the subway system and on buses. We’ll go over the numbers again, but I think we’re seeing that high compliance rate for a couple of reasons. One, because of the Executive Order masks are required. Two, the vast majority of people tend to do the right thing. And finally, three, because we have masks in booths and on buses and in the system for those who need them.
The vast mask majority of folks have their own masks and are wearing them, but if you lose your mask, if it falls out of your pocket, if it breaks, we have a mask for you at the booth in every station. We have them on buses, NYPD officers have them and MTA police officers have them, conductors have them. So for all kinds of reasons, compliance is very high. But to the Governor’s point, transit is key in people coming back to the city and coming back to work, so even if it’s just one or two people in the system, they don’t have the right to endanger anyone else and frankly they don’t have the right to scare anyone away from the system, so today by starting to draft this regulation will really allow us to use another tool in our toolbox to ensure mask compliance.
We already have fines on the books for violations of our rules and regulations, for smoking, for fare evasion, for items like that, so this is very similar to that – it’s just another tool in our toolbox to ensure compliance. So again, this is a last resort, this is for those very few people who refuse to wear a mask when offered and it will be enforced by the MTA police and of course we will be reliant on the NYPD for enforcement as well. We will not be asking our own workforce to enforce this regulation. They’ve already got plenty to do and that’s not their job. But believe that this will be really helpful in getting us closer to the goal of 100 percent mask compliance, so thank you and happy to take any questions.”