Monday, May 16

Where You Do And Do Not Need To Wear A Mask On Public Transportation

Image for article titled Where You Do And Do Not Need To Wear A Mask On Public Transportation

Photo: Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Monday’s federal ruling tossing out the Centers For Disease Control’s mask mandate caused national, regional and municipal transportation systems to reexamine their own COVID-19 protocols. The result is a bit of a mish-mash across the country of different approaches, though most officials wholesale abandoned masks the minute they were able.

In some places, questions are still getting worked out. New York is requiring ride-share workers to wear masks, but Uber and Lyft have lifted their restrictions, for instance. It’s mostly older, denser cities that are keeping their mask requirements on public transit. Here’s a list of some of the largest transit systems in the U.S. and how they are now handling masks.

There’s still a fair amount of confusion in some places, and we’ll be sure to update this post once the knots are worked out.


Airlines across the industry in the U.S. have all lifted their mask mandates. The only exception is flying internationally to countries that still require masks.

Ride Hailing Apps

Uber and Lyft

The ride-hailing apps lifted their mask requirements Tuesday, according to the Wall Street Journal:

“Remember: many people still feel safer wearing a mask because of personal or family health situations, so please be respectful of their preferences,” Uber said in a statement. “And if you ever feel uncomfortable, you can always cancel the trip.”

The company said it will also allow riders to sit in the front passenger seat. It previously required passengers to sit in the back to give drivers more distance during the pandemic.

Lyft adopted similar policies. Masks are now optional, and riders can sit in the front, it said.

“While riders and drivers can always cancel any ride they don’t wish to take, health safety reasons—like not wearing a mask—will no longer appear as cancellation options in the app,” Lyft said in a statement.

Who are these weirdos who are sitting in the front seat of their ride shares anyway?

Rail And Bus


While Amtrak passengers and employees are no longer required to wear masks while on board trains or in stations, masks are welcome and remain an important preventive measure against COVID-19. Anyone needing or choosing to wear one is encouraged to do so.


Greyhound sent us this statement regarding its mask requirements.

Greyhound has prioritized the health and safety of its team members and customers throughout the pandemic and has supported the federal government’s measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. In accordance with the Transportation Security Administration no longer enforcing the federal face mask mandate, face masks on all our buses and facilities is optional with the following exceptions:

  • Face masks are required on cross border trips into Canada and Mexico until Canada and Mexico remove their requirements
  • Face masks will still be required if mandated by local municipalities

Large Municipal Public Transit Authorities


A spokesperson with Atlanta’s Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority told CNN they will not be enforcing any mask wearing on MARTA:

“If customers and employees want to continue wearing masks while on the transit system, they are free to … but masks are not required at this time,” MARTA spokesperson Stephany Fisher said.

It should be noted that MARTA is already going through a staffing issue due to workers being out with COVID-19:


The Capital Metro, which runs Austin’s bus and train service, will no longer be requiring mask wearing:

Effective immediately, customers are no longer required to wear masks while using CapMetro services. This is following the announcement from the TSA. The CDC is still encouraging customers to mask up to protect themselves while using public transportation.


Maryland Transit Administration announced Tuesday that masks are now optional:

“ The Transportation Security Administration has rescinded the new security directives requiring mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs that were scheduled to take effect today.”


The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is sticking with Centers For Disease Control recommendations by continuing to require masks on trains and buses.


Officials at the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and the Department of Aviation are holding off on removing mask mandates. From ABC7:

“We are not making any immediate changes to the mask requirement while we assess the situation,” Metra officials said in a statement after the ruling.

South Shore Line initially said it would also require masks, but changed course and released a statement later Monday night saying it would not be requiring passengers to wear masks when riding its trains.

Los Angeles

The city of angels is a bit mixed up when it comes to masks and its public transit, according to the LA Times:

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation, which runs the DASH bus service in downtown L.A. and Commuter Express lines across the region, said it is continuing to ask riders to wear masks, pending further review.

But Metrolink, a commuter rail service system for Southern California, said masks are no longer required aboard its trains or at its stations “effective immediately.”

However, spokesman Scott Johnson said the CDC “still recommends that people continue to wear masks in indoor public transportation settings.”

New York

New York’s subways, buses, ride-share operators and taxis are still requiring masks, according to the NYTimes, but there’s some confusion as multiple systems collide, according to the Gothamist. :

New Jersey Transit and Amtrak lifted their mask requirements ahead of the morning commute.

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority — which governs the city subways and buses as well as state commuter rails like Metro North and LIRR — did not.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — which runs the PATH train and oversees the Port Authority bus terminal and regional airports — said its masking requirements were still in effect.


Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority won’t require masks:

“Effective immediately, masks are not required on SEPTA vehicles and in stations and concourses. This applies to both customers and employees in these spaces. Per CDC and TSA guidance, SEPTA continues to recommend masking on the system.”

And neither will the Port Authority Transit Corporation, which runs between Philly and southern New Jersey:

But Philadelphia International Airport is still requiring masks to be worn indoors…just not when on the actual planes. This seems fun:

San Francisco

The Bay Area Rapid Transit is also no longer still requiring masks, we think. There have been a lot of dramatic twists and turns as of Tuesday afternoon, according to SFGate. We’ll update once we know more:

After the ruling was initially released, a BART spokesperson wrote in an email to SFGATE that “unless there is specific guidance from the federal government, BART will continue to comply with the TSA mask mandate through May 3.” On Monday afternoon, an official from the Biden administration announced that the TSA will no longer be enforcing the mandate on public transportation and at transit hubs.

Following the TSA announcement, KGO reported Monday evening that BART police would no longer enforce the mandate on trains or at stations, though a spokesperson said the rule still remains in effect and new guidance will be released once the agency receives further guidance from the TSA.

Then, on Tuesday morning, a BART spokesperson told the San Francisco Chronicle that the agency had not yet made a decision on enforcement, and that such a decision could come later Tuesday (SFGATE and the San Francisco Chronicle are both owned by Hearst but operate independently of one another).

Washington, D.C.

Masks are now optional on public transit in our nation’s capitol according to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority:

Effective immediately, Metro will make masks optional on Metrorail, Metrobus and MetroAccess for its customers. Masks also will be optional for Metro employees. This change comes as a result of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) suspending enforcement, while the Biden Administration reviews a federal judge’s ruling.

“Our mask mandate has been based on federal guidance,” said General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul J. Wiedefeld. “We will continue to monitor this situation as it unfolds, but masks will be optional on Metro property until further notice.”

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