MARTA studies mask requirement for passengers

MARTA CEO Jeffrey Parker said only about 35 percent of passengers are wearing masks. He said convincing more people to wear masks will be critical for the agency's future. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
MARTA CEO Jeffrey Parker said only about 35 percent of passengers are wearing masks. He said convincing more people to wear masks will be critical for the agency's future. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported recently, local transit systems have been reluctant to require passengers to wear masks as the region slowly reopens amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But at least one agency may be changing its mind.

On Thursday CEO Jeffrey Parker told the MARTA Board of Directors the agency is studying ways to enforce a mask requirement. He offered no timetable or even a promise that masks would be required. But Parker made clear the issue “is going to be critical to our future.”

“We believe about 35 percent of customers are wearing masks right now,” he said. “We need that significantly higher, maybe in the 80 to 90 percent range.”

One key to requiring masks may be making them available to passengers. Parker said MARTA is studying the possibility of installing vending machines to dispense them.

But he said it will ultimately take a change in the general public’s attitude about masks to make them a more common sight on transit vehicles. He likened it to changing attitudes about seat belts.

“The perception and use of seat belts evolved over time,” Parker said. “We all remember piling into the back seat of our parents’ station wagons and not wearing seat belts. And we really changed the perception of seat belts.”

You can read more about the issue of masks on public transportation here.

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