Are masks disappearing from public transit?

A real-time look at mask usage in the United States and Canada as mask mandates expire

Mask usage

Last updated:

XX%

Percent of trips where ‘most’ riders are wearing masks

XX%

Difference
from yesterday

Mask policies in different parts of the world are changing. With transit agencies and government agencies pursuing independent — and often contradictory — mask policies, nobody has any idea what’s going on onboard.

Rate-My-Ride

We’re here to dispel that uncertainty: we’ve created a dashboard that lets you see how mask adoption is changing on public transit, day-by-day, agency-by-agency.

Every day, thanks to tens of thousands of Transit riders, we’re able to gather detailed information about transit service. Did the bus show up on time? Was the train crowded? How many people onboard are wearing masks? It’s all a part of Rate-My-Ride, a new Transit feature that lets riders tell transit agencies (and each other) about the quality of their trip.

In light of the end of mask mandates, we want to make some of this data public. We hope we can give individual agencies a better idea of rider behaviour, and help our riders make informed choices when taking public transit.

Daily trips where ‘most’ riders are wearing masks

Rules around masking on public transit are undergoing rapid changes. You can use this chart to compare changes in different places.

Daily trips where ‘most’ riders are wearing masks
transitapp.com/masks

Will mask mandate repeals result in less onboard masking? Almost certainly — and in some cities, they already have.

  • Mask adoption has fallen in most cities across the US and Canada.
  • In Montreal (our hometown), the STM had the highest masking rate of any big transit transit agency in the US and Canada, but that rate dropped when Quebec ended its indoor mask mandate on May 14. Then it plummeted after June 18 once masks were no longer required on public transit.
  • What about New York? Bronx bus riders are the least likely to be wearing masks in the five boroughs.
  • Whose masks came off first? Vancouver’s TransLink was the canary in the bus lane: it repealed its mask mandate in March 2022. By June 2022 only about 10% of its trips were reported as “mostly masked”, far below the 60% “mostly masked” average for other transit agencies, prior to the mask mandate repeal.

Masks have largely disappeared from many public transit systems. What will be the downstream effects? Will riders continue returning to public transit at the same pace as they have been since 2021? Or will it slow down their return? Will a decrease in mask usage worsen the operator shortage that’s affecting many transit agencies — or will it have no effect?

Hours where ‘most’ riders are wearing masks

Mask wearing is more prevalent at certain times of day. You can use this chart to compare changes over time for each hour of the day.

Yesterday
Hours where ‘most’ riders are wearing masks
transitapp.com/masks

Get results for any transit line. 
Ask riders your own questions.

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About the data

The demographics of Transit app users match those of public transit riders overall — as judged by other common survey methods and available US Census data.

We collect information from riders with small unobtrusive surveys in the app. When riders use GO, our step-by-step navigation feature, we prompt them with questions like “is the stop accessible?”, “are most people masked?”, and “how was your ride?” We ask them these questions at precise points along their journey while they’re waiting, riding, and just after they’ve arrived at their destination. We aggregate these “Rate-My-Ride” responses and share them with transit agencies to identify areas for service improvement.

With specific regards to masking: Transit riders are surveyed once per trip, and asked if “most”, “some”, or “few” people are wearing masks. This real-time dashboard shows the % of trips where a majority of riders answer “most”. About 58% of riders who use GO respond to this question.

Please note: we only show agencies where we have a sufficient number of samples. For smaller agencies, we show results along with an error margin (+/- 10% at a 95% confidence level). For the largest agencies, this error margin is narrower (+/- 2% at 95% confidence level).

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