Bus Passengers May Face Mask Mandate
County committee okays policy and full board likely to agree, could be in place August 1.
A Milwaukee County Board Committee unanimously approved a new face covering mandate for all Milwaukee County Transit System buses Wednesday
The resolution authored by Supervisor Ryan Clancy, amends an existing executive order from the County Executive’s office. If approved by the board, it would make face coverings mandatory on transit system (MCTS) buses beginning Aug. 1, with exceptions for those with medical conditions that prohibit mask wearing and for children 6 years old or younger.
The goal of the resolution is to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Milwaukee County, as the virus spikes here and across the country.
Along with making face coverings mandatory, the resolution also directs MCTS to provide disposable, single-use masks to the public when they don’t have one.
Earlier in the pandemic, the union representing transit workers blasted the policy. The Amalgamated Transit Union 998 released a statement in May saying they believed all passengers should be required to wear a mask just as the operators are.
Previously, Dan Boehm, managing director of MCTS, said he was wary of a face covering requirement, largely because of the issues enforcement would pose.
“Initially I didn’t want to put bus operators in the position of having to dwell at the fair box… talking to passengers about why they need to wear a mask,” he said. And on top of that, handing a passenger a mask increases the potential for close contact “that could be avoided.”
In May, Boehm told the board that he was concerned that enforcing the policy could lead to escalations where a transit security officer may end up “dragging somebody out of the back door of a bus because they weren’t wearing a mask,” which has happened in other transit systems that instituted a mask policy.
But Boehm told the board’s Transportation, Public Works and Transit Committee Wednesday that he feels “better about our potential for safely distributing masks on buses in the future.” The county’s Department of Transportation is working on a mask dispenser that would allow the transit system to distribute masks without bus drivers being physically involved.
Boehm said the transit system has already handed out “tens of thousands of masks” and it will continue to do so.
Assuming the policy change is passed by the board, Boehm said the transit system will have a significant communication task ahead in educating riders about the new policy.
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