The Chicago Transit Authority plans to offer free disposable face masks on several city bus routes.
The pilot program will place mask dispensers at the front of nearly 200 buses on 20 different routes, the CTA said Tuesday.
Routes with high ridership were chosen for the program, including the #56 Milwaukee, #91 Austin and #77 Belmont buses.
Through the pilot program, the CTA hopes to learn about mask demand and possibly expand the dispensers to the rest of its 129 bus routes and rail stations. Riders are required by law to wear face masks on CTA property.
The CTA has already distributed more than 19,000 reusable cloth masks in its free “Travel Healthy kits,” which also include hand sanitizer.
Since March, nearly 900 CTA workers have tested for COVID-19 — about 4% of the CTA’s 11,000 employees, the Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier in December. Eight CTA employees died after testing positive for the coronavirus.
CTA ridership has plummeted during the pandemic but trains and buses have maintained normal schedules for the most part. In September, the number of bus passengers was down 60% over 2019.
CTA President Dorval Carter, Jr. said the free mask program shows the CTA’s focus on the health and safety of its riders and employees.
“This new pilot program reflects our unwavering commitment to seek out new tools and ideas to help keep everyone healthy during this ongoing pandemic,” Carter, Jr. said in a statement.
In October, the CTA said it would install vending machines with personal protective equipment at six train stations. The vending machines offered hand sanitizer, disposable face masks, sanitizing wipes and disposable gloves for $3.75 to $10.