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SEPTA Bringing In 'Social Distancing Coaches' To Help Keep Riders In Compliance With Mask Requirements

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- In response to the pandemic, SEPTA began requiring passengers to wear face coverings last month. But some riders are still not complying.

As more people return to riding public transportation, masks are mandatory but it's difficult for SEPTA to enforce it. 

"Some of them get on hacking and coughing. It's very uncomfortable," said Mike Jones of Darby.

"We're not going to throw you off the system but we're encouraging you to wear some type of bandana, a gaiter, mask, anything that covers your mouth and nose," said SEPTA's Director of Media Relations Carla Showell-Lee.

A recent survey by the transit agency shows there's an overall 80% compliance rate across the board; over 90% on busses in the city and regional rail; but only 63% on the Market-Frankford Line. 

"Some people feel like they don't have to because everything is opening up but coronavirus is out here," said Naheem Parker of Camden. 

To help riders that may have forgotten face coverings, PPE vending machines have been installed at Suburban Station, offering masks, hand sanitizer, and hand wipes.  Some commuters make it a point to always have one handy.

"All the time, even when I'm outside my house I wear mine because I'm getting older," Jones said.

With more people taking public transit, keep in mind capacity limits are still being enforced. However, it will become increasingly harder to social distance. SEPTA has trained coaches to help spread the word and keep riders in compliance.

"We don't want to put our operators in any way that is confrontational and we don't want to put them in danger, so the reason we'll have social distancing coaches out there is to inform and educate them," Showell-Lee said.

Social distancing coaches are a part of the ambassador program. They start next Tuesday and will be scattered throughout the system.

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