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Transit services require all riders to cover faces

LOS ANGELES — Some Southland transit services will require travelers to wear masks or face coverings while using their systems in an effort to protect customers from COVID-19.

Face coverings or masks must be worn by people traveling through Los Angeles International Airport, while riding on the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) bus and train systems, on Amtrak trains and on the city of Los Angeles DASH, Cityride and Commuter Express buses.

“This new requirement will further complement Metro’s continuing efforts to keep all riders and employees safe,” said James Butts, mayor of Inglewood and MTA board chair. “But to be truly effective and to avoid enforcement nightmares, we must rely on the cooperation of the traveling public. If you’re a daily rider, do your part: cover your face and help us all protect your life and the lives of everyone who critically depends on our transit system for essential rides.”

Face coverings will not be required for some MTA riders, such as people with disabilities or with certain preexisting health conditions, including those with difficulty breathing.

The MTA said it seeks to “protect the civil liberties of all riders to the greatest extent possible.”

“We know wearing face coverings helps to prevent the spread of this virus,” said county Supervisor Janice Hahn, who last week wrote to MTA CEO Phillip Washington to implement the requirement. “We are asking [bus] riders to do their part so that our transit system can remain safe.”

The MTA stated it will enforce the requirement to the “extent that is practical” and will consider the best way to enforce the rule going forward. 

Additionally, the MTA stated it will look for ways it can help riders obtain face coverings while protecting the agency’s own supply needed for employees.

The agency required rear-door boarding on buses in March and mandated bus operators use the plexiglas shields that help separate operators from passengers, and all MTA buses are now equipped with those protective barriers.

Amtrak took a stronger approach to enforcing the face coverings, stating services will be denied to customers not wearing facial coverings.

“To protect customers and employees, all customers in stations and on trains and thruway buses are required to wear a facial covering beginning May 11,” Amtrak announced on its website. “Facial coverings can be removed when customers are eating in designated areas, in their private rooms or seated alone or with a travel companion in their own pair of seats.”

Small children who are not able to “maintain a facial covering” are exempt from this requirement, Amtrak stated, and customers must supply their own facial covering.

Amtrak said its customers can go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, CDC.gov, for detailed instructions on how to make their own mask.

As Amtrak has reduced its services due to the pandemic, the transit operator said some stations may not be staffed.

If a station is closed, people can check the Amtrak app or call (800) 872—7245 to check train status while waiting in a personal vehicle.

Riders were already required to enter and exit the city’s DASH, Cityride and Commuter Express buses through the rear door to distance themselves from bus drivers, same as the MTA.

Metrolink, the train service for the Southland that spans six counties, has not required its passengers to put on face coverings or masks.

“Our team is putting the finishing touches on a safety- and customer-focused recovery plan that our board will consider this month,” Metrolink Board Chair Brian Humphrey said May 6. “This plan will be informed by the survey results, guidance from health authorities and requirements of state and local government officials.

“We are looking forward to our team preparing short-, medium- and long-term recommendations to address the new world we all must navigate,” Humphrey said.

According to the results of an in-house survey released May 6, Metrolink stated 39% of its riders during the pandemic identified as health care workers.Of all survey respondents, 81% said they would resume using Metrolink, but not all at once. The survey found 29% said they would return as soon as the stay-at-home orders are lifted, with some planning to wait for schools to reopen or for a vaccine or a treatment to be available.

Wave Wire Services