Washington Ferries Drop Mask Rule, But Most Seattle-Area Transit Agencies Keep Theirs


Masks will continue to be required on buses and trains in the Seattle area, despite a ruling from a federal judge in Florida striking down the Centers for Disease Control's mandate on airlines and public transportation.

Washington State Ferries, however, announced late Monday that masks are no longer required on vessels or inside terminals.

How strictly the rules will be enforced on other transit is unclear, as mandates have fallen away in most other public settings.

Regardless, King County Metro, Sound Transit and Kitsap Transit on Monday said their requirements would not change, as the judge's ruling could be appealed and directives changed once more.

"While a federal judge in Florida ruled against the transit mask mandate, there may be an appeal from the Justice Department that could lead to a delay in implementation, or for the decision to be altered or overruled," Metro spokesperson Sean Hawkes said in a statement. "In the meantime, Metro's mask mandate remains in effect."

Sound Transit spokesperson John Gallagher said, "Sound Transit will maintain its decals and other mask-related signage until we have received further updates from the federal government. We will be evaluating next steps." Gallagher did not say whether the signage would be backed up by enforcement.

Kitsap Transit, which runs three passenger ferries into downtown Seattle, "continues to require that everyone on its services wear face masks," said spokesperson Sanjay Bhatt. "We will continue to enforce masks on our services until TSA updates its written directive to operators of public transportation."

TSA said Monday it would no longer enforce the requirement on public transportation and at transportation hubs.

While most local transportation options took a wait-and-see attitude to the ruling, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and airlines moved more swiftly.

Airport spokesperson Perry Cooper said travelers are no longer required to mask up at the airport, though some airlines may be requiring masks on planes.

Local airline giant Alaska Air announced Monday it was dropping its mandate, effective immediately, as did Delta Air Lines and United Airlines.

Responding to the ruling, the Biden administration acknowledged the federal mandate was no longer in place and that enforcement would stop as federal agencies decided how to respond.