MARTA will require passengers to wear masks

MARTA says it will require passengers to wear masks on trains and buses amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The agency expects to announce details of its policy Monday. The move comes as Atlanta and other cities in MARTA's service area have issued orders requiring masks to be worn in public amid the pandemic.

Late Friday the agency issues a statement saying it will incorporate enforcement of a mask requirement into its “ride with respect” policy. The policy will apply throughout the MARTA system – not just in the cities that have required masks in public.

“Customers will have every opportunity to comply but violators could be suspended from riding MARTA,” the agency said.

The statement is an about-face from comments made at Thursday's MARTA Board meeting, when CEO Jeffrey Parker noted that the cities themselves are emphasizing education instead of enforcing the orders, and MARTA would follow suit. He cited concerns about provoking confrontations between passengers and employees, especially bus drivers.

At the meeting, board members said they support a mask requirement, but also worried about how to enforce it.

Local transit agencies have been reluctant to require passengers to wear masks, for fear of turning away those who don't have easy access to them. They also have cited concerns about confrontations between employees and passengers.

Up to now, agencies have emphasized educating passengers about the need to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Last Monday MARTA began distributing two million masks to encourage passengers to wear them.

MARTA isn't the only agency under pressure to require passengers to wear masks. Gwinnett County Transit employees are pressing Transdev – the company that operates the county's bus service – to require passengers to wear masks. A spokeswoman for the company said it is considering such a requirement.