NJ Transit Decides If Mask Mandates Will Return
New Jersey Transit has not required face coverings on their trains and busses since April. A small, but vocal, group of riders have been demanding their return.
It's not going to happen.
At Monday's Customer Service and Operations committee meeting, the issue was again raised.
In the past, New Jersey Transit officials had said they were "studying the issue," but the answer this time was more definitive.
Shanti Narra, a member of the NJT Board of Directors, said "At this point there is not going to be a mask car."
Commuter Adam Reich has been the most vocal about designating at least one car per train as a "mask only" car. He started a Change.org petition when the mask mandate for mass transit was dropped.
As of Tuesday morning, only 800 people had signed the petition.
"A significant number of transit users come from groups that are more susceptible to COVID-19, including senior citizens and the immunocompromised," Reich claims, "Many passengers also live with someone who belongs to one of these vulnerable groups. For all of these riders, the value of a 'mask car' —where they can meaningfully reduce their risk of exposure to COVID-19 and lessen their chances of bringing it home to those they care about is significant."
The rejection of the "mask only" car is welcome news for most NJT crew members, especially conductors.
Union officials representing conductors strongly expressed concerns for the safety of crew members if the mask mandate were to return in any form. Instances of physical and verbal abuse of conductors and others trying to enforce the previous mask mandate continued to rise throughout the period of pandemic restrictions.
While rejecting "mask only" cars, New Jersey Transit officials are still looking at possibly opening more cars per train to ease crowding, and give people a little more space to at least practice some level of social distancing.
It is typical practice to keep some cars closed to make it easier for crew members to circulate among passengers.
During Monday's hearing, Narra said they are still studying the issue and if it is possible to open cars that are currently kept closed.