NJ Transit buses and trains have more passengers now than they did a few months ago but mass transit travel continues to be impacted by concerns about the highly contagious Delta variant.

While most buses and trains are only about half full during the week, some passengers are voicing concerns about others not wearing a mask over their mouth and nose, which continues to be a federal Transportation Security Administration requirement.

Kevin Corbett, the president and CEO of NJ Transit, said the agency is using facial recognition technology on a trial basis, on platforms at key stations and found that 97% of passengers are complying.

Corbett said NJ Transit police are out and about, making sure people are wearing their masks.

“Since August we’ve had 94 mask details going out, we have masks, our police officers will hand them out,” he said.

Corbett said he has actually witnessed passengers on trains instructing those not wearing a mask to put one on.

Conductors and drivers, however, are not law enforcement, so they can only remind people.

He said if someone refuses to follow the mask mandate even after being told by the conductor to put one on, police will be called to arrive at the next station. If the passenger refuses to comply, they are asked to leave the train.

Corbett said NJ Transit police are limited in what they can do if someone refuses to put on a mask. They cannot issue nuisance tickets but they can arrest people for disorderly conduct. So far eight people have been arrested for disorderly conduct for refusing to comply with the mask mandate.

He noted bus drivers and conductors may also hand out masks but their supplies are limited, so the best place to go to get a mask if you forgot to bring one is the NJ Transit customer service window.

According to an NJ Transit spokeswoman, customer service has handed out more than 122,000 masks to travelers during the pandemic.

Corbett said weekday rail travel is about 50% of pre-pandemic levels, while bus ridership is in the 65 to 70% range.

He said going into New York City during the week, trains are at 45% to 50%. On weekends they are 80-100%.

“People clearly want to go in and party and travel and go to the restaurants on the weekend, but they’re still not going back to work in their offices yet,” he said.

He pointed out the NJ Transit discounted Flex Pass promotion and the NJ Transit rewards program, that offers discounts at restaurants, museums and other venues, have helped to bring back riders.

“We see ridership returning and people seem very comfortable coming back,” said Corbett.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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