Aug. 19, 2020 By Christian Murray
The days of a free ride on an MTA bus are coming to an end.
The MTA announced Tuesday that front-door boarding and fare collection will resume on Monday, Aug. 31.
New Yorkers have been traveling free on local and SBS buses since March 23, when they were required to board the bus through the rear door. Riders didn’t have to pay since the fare box is located at the front of the bus, which was closed off to protect drivers from being infected with COVID-19.
With the resumption of front-door boarding, passengers will be required to pay. The change, however, will also make room for more social distancing, freeing up approximately 40 percent more space on buses.
“Front-door boarding is a crucial step as we continue to support the reopening of New York City by making sure our buses have more space to socially distance and our bus operators are fully protected,” said Sarah Feinberg, interim president of New York City Transit.
The MTA is in the process of making a number of design changes to protect drivers for when front-door boarding returns. It is installing vinyl curtains around bus operator seats, adding polycarbonate sliders, and moving the white line that separates riders farther away from the driver.
The entire fleet of 6,000 buses is also being outfitted with high-density air filters.
“We have a comprehensive plan to enhance the safety of our operators and customers, who have chosen the bus system over other modes of transportation throughout this pandemic,” said Craig Cipriano, president of MTA Bus Company and senior vice president of NYC Transit’s Department of Buses.
“As customers continue to choose buses, we now expect them to pay the fare and remain respectful of others by wearing a mask whenever on board,” Cipriano added.
The MTA estimates that it missed out on $159 million in revenue by providing free local and SBS bus service during the pandemic.
The agency, which has requested $12 billion from the federal government to get through to the end of 2021, has been decimated by the COVID-19 crisis and the financial battering is why the MTA said it is important for fare collection to resume.