Digest: Citing enforcement issues, South Shore trains offers 'mask optional' cars

News Wire Digest for Sept. 24: MTA adopts no-defecation rule, returns Bombardier cars to service; Twin Cities transit workers reject contract, approve strike
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The South Shore Line, shown in Michigan City, Ind., is offering "mask optional" cars on its trains.
TRAINS: David Lassen

Thursday morning rail transit news:

South Shore Line offers 'Mask Optional' cars, citing enforcement difficulties

Commuter railroad South Shore Line is offering a Mask Optional car on trains for those who refuse to refuse to wear face coverings on public transit. Streetsblog Chicago reports that when Indiana issued its mask order, a July 27 South Shore announcement noted that passnegers were required to wear masks “except within the ‘mask optional’ car … [or] if excused for reasons of deafness or medical condition.” Mike Noland, president of the South Shore’s governing body, the Northern Indiana Transportation District, told the blog the move reflected the difficulty in enforcing mask orders: If [riders] don’t want to comply, there’s not a whole lot we can do,” noting the railroad would have to “stand behind arrest charges” if someone refused to leave the train. Introducing the Mask Optional car, Noland said, has led to “100% compliance in other cars.”

MTA passes conduct rules including no-defecation order, returns newest subway cars to service
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved conduct rules including one banning defecating on trains and buses during a Wednesday board meeting, while also reporting that new subway cars will be returned to service after being sidelined in June. NY1.com reports the board formally adopted rules which have been in effect since April under a pandemic emergency order, which also include staying in the subway system for longer than an hour, traveling with shopping cars and other large wheeled cars, and staying in a station or train car when a train reaches its final stop and is taken out of service. In a news release, the MTA outlined the review process leading to return of 318-car Bombardier R179 fleet "in the coming days;" the cars had been removed from service in June after two cars separated while a train was in motion [see “Light rail service resumes...,” News Wire Digest, June 4, 2020] and had previously been removed from service in January because of doors opening while trains were in motion [see “NYC subway withdraws new Bombardier cars for faulty doors,” Trains News Wire, Jan. 10, 2020].

Twin Cities transit workers reject contract, authorize strike
Unionized employees of Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro Transit have rejected a contract offer from the transit agency and authorized a strike if talks remain stalled. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports the one-year contract was rejected by a 94% margin. The president of the Amalgamated Transit Workers Union Local 1005, which represents 2,400 light-rail operators, bus drivers, mechanics and other workers, told the newspaper that the main point of contention is hazard pay for employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency offered an additional $3 an hour in hazard pay from March 21 to May 15.

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