Reopen News: Fares, front-door boarding resume on MTA buses

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Commuters will notice some major changes Monday along some MTA bus routes.

Free rides are ending, and shower curtain-style dividers are coming down on some buses.

Riders will now be able board from the front again, but safety measures will remain in place.

Rear entry boarding began in March as a way to protect drivers from being exposed to the coronavirus.

Eyewitness News was at 242nd and Broadway, where some commuters do the bus-to-train transfer.

New signs inside MTA buses remind passengers to once again pay the fare and then stand behind the white line.

The MTA says it is also installing plastic shower curtains or shower door-style barriers to protect drivers on more than 5800 buses.

Additionally, the MTA announced it is also enhancing employee safety by moving back the white line on the bus floor, behind which riders are expected to stand providing more social distancing for the operator. Customers are reminded to refill their MetroCards as fare collection resumes.

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If you're planning on taking an MTA bus in the city, be prepared to pay up at the front door.

MTA Bridge and Tunnel Officers and EAGLE teams are being deployed throughout the bus system to help remind customers they must pay the fare and are required to wear a mask while on public transit.

"As we prepare for Monday, we want customers and employees to know we are doing everything we can to keep them safe - from disinfecting our buses to mandating masks to installing protective barriers for our operators," said Sarah Feinberg, Interim President of New York City Transit. "We honor and respect our heroic front line employees for everything they continue to do for our city. We are resuming fare collection at a time when we are facing the worst financial crisis in MTA history and we need the federal government to step up and deliver $12 billion in urgently needed funding now."

Bus ridership has actually increased this summer, with many riders opting to stay out of the subway.

Add to this the fact that due to rear boarding restrictions, bus rides have been free.

"It was really nice actually," one rider said. "You just hop on, you hop off. Yeah, I like that."

"In the beginning, I was a little cautious. But after a while I did feel pretty safe," said another. "If it's very, very crowded, I'll wait for the next one. But I feel fine with it."

But the MTA's finances are not fine.

The agency says it is dealing with its worst fiscal crisis ever, estimating it would have collected $159 million if bus riders had been paying fares during the pandemic.

The MTA is now asking the federal government for a $12 billion dollar bailout.

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