You can now get your groceries without a mask, go to class without a mask and hit the treadmill without a mask. But it won’t be until at least another month until it’s masks off on San Francisco’s buses and trains.
That’s because of a federal mask requirement from the Transportation Security Administration that was continued through April 18 and requires masking on public transportation across the country. That includes local agencies like the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority, Bay Area Rapid Transit and Caltrain.
SFMTA Director Jeffrey Tumlin answered questions at last week’s board meeting about the mandate, saying he’s coordinating with transit heads across the region—all of whom are planning to follow federal and local health guidelines. If the federal government lifts its travel mask mandate next month and local health directors don’t step in on April 18 to issue a new one, his agency plans to follow suit and San Franciscans will be allowed to ride transit mask-free.
“We’ve actually been quite grateful that the federal government has set consistent rules for all of us,” Tumlin said. “We are in general agreement that we will simply follow what the health directors and federal government tell us to do.”
Transit riders will be allowed to continue to wear masks if they prefer, and drivers will follow the same guidelines as riders.
Private rideshare companies are also following the federal order. Lyft spokesperson Gabi Condarco-Quesada wrote in an email to The Standard that the company will continue to require passengers and drivers to stay masked until the federal rules are lifted. These are the same rules that govern airports, and are the reason travelers won’t be taking off their masks at San Francisco International Airport or on airplanes soon either.
Tumlin said at the meeting he understands that lifting the mask mandate on public transportation may make some riders nervous, but said that public transportation is no less safe to people than other public spaces.
“It has been demonstrated that public transit is one of the safest places you can be,” Tumlin said. “It can’t be the only place where we’re required to wear a mask.”
Sarah Wright can be reached at [email protected]