Lately, the nation is shedding vestigil pandemic policies. Public schools that were closed are now open to anyone who wants instruction in person. Restaurants are attracting customers back, despite being free of capacity limitations and mandatory vaccination checks. Concert attendance and visits to theme parks are booming.
Public transportation is a very rare exception in America’s opening. Riders must wear a federal helmet and ridership remains at an extremely low level compared to pre-pandemic.
New York City is America’s capital of transit. Subway ridership has fallen to half the level it was prior to the Pandemic. Washington D.C. still has a rail ridership that is nearly as high today as it was in the 1970s. This happened when there were only about three stations. BART is the rail system that serves San Francisco Bay Area. is patting itselfFor seeing ridership increase to 30% of the 2019 levels, pat yourself on the back.
The industry faces the question of whether to eliminate its mask requirements in order to save resources, win back some straphangers, or keep them around for ever.
The former group is made up of 21 Republican-leaning state attorneys general, who today filed a lawsuit to overturn the Biden Administration’s mandate that travel by planes be prohibited.
“Even lockeddown States like California announced that their mask mandates would be ending. “But, the CDC nevertheless unabashedly leaves it mandate intact,” says the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of Florida.
The suit claims the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mask mandate is arbitrary and capricious and infringes federal and U.S. Constitution laws. The lawsuit demands the declaration of the mask mandate as illegal and the interdiction by the federal government from its enforcement.
Transit industry has also asked the Biden administration not to extend masking deadlines. The American Public Transportation Association demanded that the CDC masking order be not extended past its March 18 expiration.
“We are confident that the Administration is determined in its efforts for normalcy and economic recovery. “Ceasing the federal Mask Mandat will support these efforts,” stated Paul P. Skoutelas, President of American Public Transportation Association. He wrote to Biden on March 3, asking for the CDC order to be extended to March 18.
Some people are not so happy to see travelers’ mask requirements removed. Contrary to APTA, the Biden administration is keeping its traveler mask order in force until April 18
At BloombergJustin Fox is a columnist and suggests we do more today. Although he isn’t keen to give mandates, Fox suggests that both individuals and agencies strongly support public transit as a social norm.
Fox wrote that he is all for returning to “normal” as Covid-19 is figured out. He has already returned to work, to restaurants and to shaking hands. He says that “I would happily continue wearing masks on buses and subways pretty much for ever, and I’d really enjoy it if many other people did.”
Fox suggests that the minimal cost of wearing a face mask while riding on a bus or train might be worth the slight benefit in stopping COVID-19 and other transmissible diseases like the cold, flu.
That’s silly. It’s obvious that people do not ride public transport just to use it. People are trying to move from one place to another. It is unlikely that masks will be worn when you are not at your destination.
New York City’s early COVID-19 spread was likely driven by solitary drivers more than the subway riders. It doesn’t matter how you arrive there, it’s more important where you are going.
If you are not required to use a mask while riding public transit, the cost will increase. You’re less likely to remember the mask you wore on the bus, and you will find it annoying and conspicuous once you arrive.
Fox acknowledges that this is likely one of the reasons people are less willing to wear masks on New York City’s trains and buses.
Fox points out that masks are not only used for disease prevention, but also serve many other purposes. He says that if there is one place where everyone must wear masks, it will increase demand and make the industry more ready for next year’s pandemic. He continues, “Having riders covering their faces won’t stop them from eating or talking,” he says.
This is not convincing. About 5 percent of transit-using workers used to commute by transit in the pre-pandemic. Even if they all took transit, and everyone wore the masks whenever they did so they couldn’t maintain production at the level required to supply demand for the next pandemic.
The easiest way to increase mask production would likely be to get rid of all federal regulations.
APTA cites costs and inconvenience of enforcing mandates on masks as a reason for getting rid of them. They aren’t convinced they can be used as a compliance tool, encouraging people to adhere to all of the rules.
Fox again calls for permanent masking standards on public transit. Fox suggests that transit agencies conduct public relations campaigns to encourage people to use masks.
This is how the agencies would spend shrinking amounts of their farebox revenues if they really wanted to. This is unlikely to do any good.
Nearly everyone sees masks as an unnecessary temporary solution that does not serve any purpose. As the pandemic fades, so will their belief. In the end, it seems that they will prevail over their social norms regarding mask-wearing.