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Is King County Metro enforcing the mask mandate?

The electronic destination signs on more than 1,400 King County Metro buses read: “Masks Required.” (Photo courtesy of King County Metro)

What happens if you get on a bus without a mask? We know there is a mask requirement on King County Metro, but is there any enforcement?

A KIRO Radio listener asked us to check out King County Metro’s policy on enforcing the local and federal mask mandates on buses. This listener hinted that there is a wink-and-a-nod agreement between local jurisdictions and Metro that says no enforcement will be taken for those who do not wear masks.

I asked Metro to comment on this, and the bottom line is this: Metro drivers will not be enforcing the mask mandates.

As the spokesperson wrote in an email, Metro drivers are “peacekeepers, not enforcers.” Drivers will certainly remind the passenger that masks are required, and many buses even have masks available. All 1,400 buses will have mask dispensers by the end of March.

If the passenger gets upset or belligerent about wearing a mask, or another rider gets into it with a mask-less passenger, Metro drivers can contact supervisors or Transit Police. As of Friday night, that has not happened.

“We don’t want our drivers getting into an altercation over masks,” the Metro spokesperson wrote.

So I questioned further, asking if I could get on a bus without a mask, be quiet and not cause a fuss, and simply go to my destination without any enforcement. And the answer is yes. There would be no enforcement. That said, Metro reports that 90% of riders are wearing masks. The expectation from Metro’s perspective is that everyone who can wear a mask, will be wearing a mask. Drivers can also ask people to get off the bus.

As our listener wrote: “The frustrating thing is the state and counties will shut down or fine businesses for non-compliance yet completely ignore issues on public transit.”

Sound Transit estimates soar and trains start running to Northgate

Sound Transit has a little bit more of an aggressive policy on mask wearing. If staff on light rail or the Sounder see a mask-less passenger, they will remind the passenger of the requirement and offer them a mask to wear. If they refuse, the staff will ask the passenger to get off at the next stop. If they refuse that request, police will be called.

The penalty for violating the mask order can carry a $100 fine and up to 90 days in jail.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.

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