Pending the reversal of a federal court ruling masks will remain optional but not mandatory on NJ Transit.

Masks were required on all forms of public transportation including terminals and stations until U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa ruled that the CDC mandate exceeded the authority of U.S. health officials. The CDC improperly failed to justify its decision to extend the mandate and did not follow proper rulemaking, according to Mizelle.  The ruling is being appealed by the CDC.

Before the court ruling this month, commuter Adam Reich floated the idea of a "mask required" car for those uncomfortable at the prospect of riding on crowded trains without everyone masked up.

Board member James Adams asked the agency to look into the feasibility of such a car.

NJ Transit spokesman Jim Smith told New Jersey 101.5 Thursday that there are no plans to extend the mask mandate at this time.

"However, masks remain optional, and we encourage all those who wish to continue to wear them to do so if that provides for a more comfortable travel experience," Smith said in an email. "NJ Transit has consistently followed and complied with state & federal health requirements since the onset of the pandemic, and will continue to do so moving forward.

Free masks continue to be available at customer service offices while supplies last, Smith said.

Smith did not say what prevented a mask car from being implemented by NJ Transit.

The CDC recommends that masks be worn on public transportation.

Masking sign at NJ Transit's Hamilton station
Masking sign at NJ Transit's Hamilton station (Dan Alexander, Townsquare Media NJ)
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Support for a mask mandate

Riders don't seem to have a problem wearing a mask onboard public transportation.

A Quinnipiac University poll shows that nationwide 54% of Americans do not support a public transportation mandate while 51%

Without a mask requirement, 56% of poll respondents say they'd still wear a face covering on an airplane. Fifty-three percent would wear a mask when riding a public bus, subway or train. Overall, 65% would feel comfortable riding on buses, subways and trains without a mask requirement.

Rebecca Weiss has been working from home for over two years and said she doesn't believe NJ Transit's older equipment provides proper air filtration.

"I still wear masks when I’m in a store or crowded space so I’d likely choose a masked car if offered," Weiss said.

Masking sign at NJ Transit's Hamilton station
Masking sign at NJ Transit's Hamilton station (Dan Alexander, Townsquare Media NJ)
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Give it a try

Reich has taken his push for a masking car to riders in the form of an online petition asking NJ Transit to just try it.

"We ask NJ Transit to at least try out this concept and evaluate it in the field," Reich said.

He said the mask car could be implemented with just signage and announcements much like "Quiet Cars" are established.

Dan Alexander is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dan.alexander@townsquaremedia.com

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