Masks are now optional on TriMet busses, MAX trains, and the Portland Streetcar following a change in federal guidance.
On Monday, a federal judge in Florida struck down the national mask mandate for transportation spaces like airports, busses, and trains, calling it "unlawful" and violates the agency's rule-making procedure. In response, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced it would no longer be enforcing the mask mandate. TriMet takes its COVID safety guidance from the TSA.
“Masks are now optional on our buses and trains due to yesterday's federal court decision and the new TSA directive,” said TriMet spokesperson Tyler Graf in a press release Tuesday. “With the CDC still recommending that masks be used on transit, we do welcome their continued use and ask that everyone be respectful of others.”
Graf also said that riders may continue to see signage and hear on-board announcements about mask requirements over the next few days as the agency adjusts to the new guidance.
Shirley Block, president of the ATU Local 757 which represents TriMet drivers, said that a majority of bus operators are relieved that masks are now optional on TriMet. According to Block, the mask mandate has created conflict between non-complying passengers and operators.
“A lot of operators get in conflicts and have people spit on them because they're asking [riders] to put on a mask," Block said. "[Masks becoming optional] should help with assaults going down a bit.”
Assaults against bus drivers have more than doubled throughout the pandemic, according to Block. Block said that most operators are not concerned with removing one COVID safety precaution like masking because many others—like keeping bus windows open, encourage social distancing, and have a shield between drivers and riders—are still in place.
The Portland International Airport announced masks were optional almost immediately after the Florida judge's ruling Monday.