Federal mask mandate
The federal directive requiring that all passengers wear a mask over the nose and mouth on public transit has been extended through January 18, 2022.
Refusing to wear a mask is a violation of federal law; passengers may be subject to penalties under federal law.
Per federal mandate, state order and CTA Rules of Conduct, masks or face coverings are required in public places and on all CTA properties -- even if you are vaccinated. As such, all customers* are required to wear masks/coverings while on a CTA bus, train, platform or in a station or other building or facility owned and operated by the CTA.
Commonly asked questions addressed on this page:
How are we getting customers to comply?
Like every public transit agency in the country, we are focused on awareness, education and enforcement to promote mask compliance. We continue to follow industry best practices for addressing this national issue.
We advise customers about the mask requirement in several ways:
- Customer education and awareness: Everywhere you go on our system—buses, trains, stations—there are reminders about the mask requirement, including updated signage, digital ads and announcements on our vehicles and in our stations.
- Free face masks: Following a successful pilot, we've expanded the availability of free, disposable masks across our entire system. Customers in need of a mask can find them at the front of our buses or can request one from the employee staffing the CA booth in the main entrance of each of our rail stations.
- Customer reminders: Currently, our operators/employees may remind customers that the federal mandate requires that masks be worn, but we will not ask our employees to get into confrontations where they risk being attacked or assaulted, which has happened on other transit systems.
Do CTA customers wear masks?
Based on field observations, most customers do follow the mask requirement. Overall compliance is high. But as is the case in any public setting, sometimes a few people do not follow the mask rules.
Why is enforcement a challenge?
As with every other major U.S. transit system, enforcing a mask requirement is extremely challenging. That’s primarily due to the inherent nature of public transit:
- Unlike a store or building, which typically have just one way in and out, public transit has multiple points of entry, with customers constantly coming and going.
- Each weekday, our trains make 2,200 trips and buses make 18,000 trips. At any given moment, hundreds of customers are boarding and alighting, or entering stations or terminals. Enforcing each and every rider is impractical.
- Stopping a train or bus to engage a customer about a mask would create delays for all customers. Those delays would impact not only that particular bus or train, but the others along the route and rail line.
Unfortunately, there have been far too many instances from our transit peers across the country in which transit employees have been assaulted and attacked after asking customers to put on a mask. We place the safety of our employees as a top priority and will not ask them to risk their personal safety to confront someone not wearing a mask.
What can customers do?
As we continue our ongoing education and awareness efforts, there is a level of personal accountability and common-sense behavior we expect from you and all other customers.
Following the guidance of public-health experts is important, and the same behaviors people have learned and exhibit at grocery stores, food pickup, retail stores and other public spaces (wearing masks properly, practicing social distancing, etc.) also apply to transit.
It’s simple: Wear a mask. Wear it properly. Keep yourself and your fellow CTA riders safe.
*Per federal and state orders, masks/face covers are not required for children under the age of two, or for those who are unable to medically tolerate the use of one.
Gallery of mask PSAs about proper mask wearing