The debate over wearing masks amid the coronavirus pandemic has been an ongoing issue for several months now, but the South Shore Line train service has come up with a solution to prevent confrontations with customers who choose not to wear the facial coverings.
The South Shore Line, operated by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, has begun to make accommodations for those who refuse to wear masks, setting up so-called “mask-optional” cars on its trains.
“We were getting complaints from riders, telling us that others in their car weren’t wearing masks,” President Michael Noland said. “Because we had enforcement problems, we went with this approach.”
The South Shore Line, which runs from South Bend, Indiana, travels to Millennium Station in Chicago.
Employees on the train service are still required to wear masks, and passengers not in the “mask-optional” car must also wear them, unless prevented from doing so by medical condition or other extenuating circumstances.
Noland says the complaints for non-compliance have gone down since the mask-optional cars were added.
“It’s not a perfect policy, but we think it’s worked very well because we had a lot of concerned customers,” he said. “We are not encouraging them not to wear a mask, and we are advising them that there are mask requirements that they need to be aware of.”
Those requirements are in place in several communities along the train’s route, including St. Joseph, Laporte and Lake counties requiring masks in public areas.
Illinois requires masks to be worn in public when social distancing is not possible.
Even with those requirements in place, officials with the South Shore Line did not consult with officials in Chicago or in any of the other counties along the train’s route before implementing the mask-optional cars.
Metra says it has no plans to implement similar cars on its train lines.