Mask dispenser by door of Kinkysharyo light rail vehicle / photo by author

As I was boarding a bus a few days ago, I saw a young gentleman sitting close to the middle of the bus, maskless. I pulled a mask out of the dispenser at the front of the bus, walked back to the gentleman, and handed the mask to him. He thanked me and put it on.

Then, I caught the 1 Line. I sat in the fourth car, per usual, to be in the least-populated part of the train. A maskless gentleman claimed a standing position a few feet away from me. I got up and headed toward the raised seating section at the end of the car, where there is a 50/50 chance of being a mask dispenser. Unfortunately, this car’s dispenser was on the far side of the traincar, and the maskless guy was standing between me and the dispenser. So, I settled for keeping my distance from the guy.

Having more mask dispensers so there is one near each door pair would have come in handy in this encounter. The more crowded the train gets, the more these dispensers will be needed, including being restocked throughout the day. It’s a tiny investment for one-time installation of these clear plastic dispensers, and a rounding error within a rounding error of Sound Transit’s maintenance budget. If it saves one rider’s life, the investment will have paid for itself.

The air on the 1 Line may be among the safest indoor air to breathe (so long as no oblivious or malicious unmasked or partially unmasked passenger is breathing directly at your face), with the air being replaced every 5 minutes and filters designed to collect the viral particles.

But there remain plenty of people riding the 1 Line maskless, or with their masks down, though they are a distinct minority of the ridership. That said, it is not the percentage of ridership following safety rules that matters. It is the number of maskless riders you have to deal with on your trip that matters. Indeed, one infected maskless rider can render more harm on a packed train than on one that is mostly empty. Still, they are most likely to infect just the other maskless riders, and the unvaccinated ones in particular.

Tolerance for maskless riding makes the train less accessible for the 2% of the population who are immunocompromised, including some who can’t take any of the vaccines, making it a potential ADA issue.

I’ve found that roughly half of maskless riders are open to reason, but that only matters if there is a mask dispenser within reach.

If you have an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination, you get to ride transit free to the appointment, on nearly all public transit buses in the region, as well as the 1 Line. But you still have to wear a mask, like everyone else, over both your nose and mouth.

34 Replies to “To reduce masklessness on trains, add more dispensers”

  1. I’m also for some enforcement of this mandate. Starting with my fellow “white” men,.. as I sit here in Skagit Station writing this. In a mask.


  2. I’m surprised you saw a maskless rider on the bus. In my experience, bus drivers have been very strict about enforcing masks. I even got a harsh talking to for pulling my mask down for 2 seconds to sip a drink.

    1. I’ve seen some bus drivers not wearing a mask, relatively safe behind their plastic shield. I even saw one, in his uniform jacket, riding maskless just a few days ago.

      Maybe it is the routes I ride, but having someone on the bus maskless is definitely not rare. Same with the train, too. I’ve found each LRV I’m on more likely than not to have at least one maskless rider, at least until I offer each of them a mask.

      There are plenty of riders who seem to think the requirement is to wear a mask at some point during the ride, either while boarding and then pulling the mask down once they sit, or sitting down and then putting on their mask.

      I don’t hear the safety message being played much any more, and usually only when everyone on board is masked up. Though I did hear it on an ST Express bus multiple times, and then it got muted after some maskless riders were on board. Virtue signaling when safe, avoiding confrontation when there is someone who might feel antagonized. Maybe the message should be less antagonizing, so drivers will play it *while* someone who needs to hear it is on board.

  3. While the masks I buy for myself have a good seal around the nose and mouth, I have occasionally forgotten one and needed to use a mask from a bus dispenser. Unfortunately, the masks on board the buses are so leaky around the corners, and impossible to seal properly, they make me question whether putting one on is actually slowing the spread vs. just making others around me feel better.

    While whatever protection the bus masks may provide is certainly no worse than nothing at all, people who care about their own protection should not certainly not rely on them. I’ve become a proponent of KN95’s, which are cheap to buy, and seem to make a much snugger fit.

      1. You do know that masks don’t work against Covid, right? If you wear glasses and they fog up when you’re wearing a mask, why do you think that is? This is simple physics.

        If you’re about to sneeze or cough? Be polite and do so into your elbow, or wear your silly mask if you wish. Leave others alone.

    1. To be clear, I still support having masks available on board, since they clearly don’t hurt, and cost next to nothing to provide.

      I’m just saying that at least for the shape of my face, they don’t help much. At best, they’re a backup solution that’s marginally better than nothing on days when I forget my mask, which actually does fit my face well.

      It is also possible that leaks around the corners matter less for outgoing air than incoming air, if the outgoing air is being blown into the filter, while incoming air is being sucked in from all directions. If so, leaky masks can still have some value. But, for the sake of my own protection, I would still much rather have a mask that’s well sealed.

  4. I imagine accosting a maskless person about masks is much more dangerous than being maskless and unvaccinated. Are you not aware of the continually increasing number of violent incidents on this topic?

    1. I’m quite aware of the if-it-bleeds-it-leads aspect of journalism. A handful of people around the country have been shot and killed over attempting to enforce mask mandates on private property, over the course of a year and a half. Offering a mask instead of telling the person to leave might have produced a different outcome.

      Hundreds of thousands (just counting the USA) have died from being breathed on, with lack of masks and lack of vaccination magnifying the odds of acquiring, being hospitalized because of, and dying from the virus.

      I don’t accost. I offer them a mask. If they decline, I leave them be. I’ve never felt the least bit in danger of being physically assaulted while offering a mask, well, except by the person’s aspirations. In such encounters, I am standing, and they are usually sitting.

    2. I imagine accosting a maskless person about masks is much more dangerous than being maskless and unvaccinated.

      Yeah, sure, but isn’t that the kind of bravery we need to fight the pandemic? Having the courage to stand up to someone, and say “Please sir, cover your nose” isn’t asking too much. It is not like storming Normandy Beach. And yet, this little act of courage could save the lives of hundreds, maybe thousands.

      1. Thank you RossB. We need to fight this pandemic like we’re fighting Nazism, Communism and Trumpism!

        We owe it to among others the late Scott Ryan and his survivors to finish the job!

      2. Just a friendly reminder that the COVID survival rate is 98.9%, and is probably higher given data capture and reporting irregularities.

        Another reminder: Covid, like it’s cousin the cold, is an airborne respiratory decease. Which means it is transmitted by air, which you breath. Unless you equip yourself with your own personal oxygen supply in a closed system, you’re going to be exposed to it, no matter how many masks you and those around you wear.

        Third reminder: unless you’re immunocompromised, the best protection against COVID is naturally acquired immunity. If you’re immunocompromised (which includes the elderly) vaccinations appear to provide limited protection.

        Have a great day.

      3. Other than Covid19 being airborne, nine of the above is true, as proven repeatedly over the past two years of studies. If anyone disputes this, please do some research in actual scientific and medical works, not Fox News.

      4. “nine of the above is true”

        Nine of TidyPrepster’s three reminders are true? That’s a fantastic accomplishment, TidyPrepster! Nine out of three ain’t bad!

      5. Glenn, ask and you shall receive:

        Actually all of my arguments on the referenced comment are true, and (bonus!) scientifically valid and verified.

        I would ask you that you (and others) take your excellent advice and get your information from the reading and analysis of the actual data, rather than MSNBC or CNN.

    3. Steve, it’s not enough for you to wear your mask. It’s your social duty to make certain others wear theirs as well! Start be being polite, but if that doesn’t work for them to wear it! Fight the fight for what’s right! Masks forever, always!

      Also, if you’re not doing your duty, you’re as bad as the maskless themselves!

  5. It’s just not proper to rely on masks provided by a venue.

    You need to bring your own, it needs to be coordinated with your outfit, and it needs to have rainbow colors, glitter and sparkles.

    1. Um, it’s *public* transit. *Public* libraries also provide masks, as do hospitals and other places that provide *public* services because not providing them is a barrier or makes it less safe for the rest of the public.

    2. Those are all good ideas! Even better is if we all wear two of three at the same time which will double or triple our protection rates!

  6. My anecdotal experience was that adding mask dispensers was the #1 thing Metro did to improve mask compliance. Before they did that, I had a suspicion that the stereotype of poor and homeless people not wanting to wear masks was just a false narrative feeding people’s underlying fears, classism, and racism, but adding the dispensers confirmed it. When we rode on CT before they added mask dispensers, compliance was much worse, but they recently added dispensers (I think around the Oct 2 service change) and compliance is now better.

  7. Great idea! Thank you, Brent! They should do the same with ORCA readers (put them at the middle door as well) , as Metro’s Rapid Ride does.

  8. How about we not wear masks on Seattle transportation! We have over 80% vax rates in Seattle what are you worried about? If you gave me mask on a train I would thank you and throw it away.

    1. Then I would come to your house and PURGE you! We must end masklessnesses by any means necessary!

  9. My goodness, all this maskless-ness! No wonder Seattle transit riders lead the world in infecting others! It’s a crime that ought to result in immediate arrest, followed by permanent ejection from the city of Seattle.

    1. Obviously you’re wrong! While wearing a mask I did not catch Covid. Once at home I took it off and a few days later I had Covid! If I had continued to wear my my mask 24/7 I would have been safe!

  10. If a bus driver spoke to me sternly about pulling my mask down to take a sip from a straw I know that I’d never have the courage to show my face again and would pull the mask upriver my eyes too for the rest of the ride.

      1. Good Johnny. If you need to take a sip from your straw just cut a small hole in your mask so you can easily do so. A larger hole works well for eating.

  11. I agree with all of you who are supporting mask wearing! I know, and sadly am related to, some who take issue with the complete life-saving safety of the paper or cloth 3 ply masks. Shockingly, those people can be counted among my own family members and now ex-friends.

    I suggest every city hire a task force… we can’t use police because they’re too corrupt. Instead, we hire a task force headed up and controlled by people of color. They should be armed and trained to handle the mask-less. Those who won’t protect others by wearing them can be arrested and taken to a camp. Some place far from the city itself where they can be taught the importance of mask wearing. If they refuse to comply, they can be locked away for months at a time (keeping society safer) until they finally relent!

    Once they are released and rejoin society, the new, better people will be educated and fit to be a part of those contributing to the greater good. If they relapse in any way, they can then be fairly eliminated, as they have been given a chance to know and correct the error of their ways.

    Masks for all, for always! Anyone who doesn’t wear a mask all the time is a monster and needs to be treated as such! Show no quarter! If you disagree with me, you are an ignorant, dangerous Nazi like Trump who hates the Jews!

Comments are closed.