March 23, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
Finally some good news for New York straphangers – MTA bus trips will now be free while New York fights the coronavirus pandemic.
The MTA has announced that it has suspended fare collection on all of its local and select bus routes in order to keep its drivers safe from coronavirus. From this morning, riders of these buses no longer have to pay and are being told to board and exit buses from the rear-door to minimize risk to drivers.
The MTA is keeping its bus drivers at a distance from passengers.
“The area around the bus operator will be roped off to minimize contact, in accordance with the direction of Governor Cuomo and with public health and medical doctors,” MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye said on Pix11’s Morning News show.
The boarding procedure with express bus service is slightly different. Express bus riders will continue to board from the front door as normal, but will not be permitted to sit in the first three rows of the bus to ensure a safe social distance from bus drivers.
Riders with reduced mobility will still be permitted to board at the front of all local and SBS buses, and board as usual on express buses so they can use wheelchair ramps.
The new policy comes in the wake of the MTA announcing that 23 of its employees tested positive for coronavirus. Furthermore, the agency said it wants to do all it can to prevent contagion.
“We are disinfecting workplaces at the MTA, subway stations, Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road stations, every piece of rolling stock, subway cars, the cars on Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North, as well as paratransit vehicles. We’re doing stations as well,” Foye said.
Foye continues to advise riders to wash and sanitize their hands and avoid face touching.
The loss of bus revenue is yet another blow to MTA coffers and comes less than a week after the agency appealed for a $4 billion federal bailout due to a dive in passenger numbers throughout the transit system.
While the city has told residents to stay at home, the MTA is continuing to operate normal weekday services in order to transport essential employees to their jobs.
“Transit workers are coming up to work, showing up the work, to carry first responders to and from their jobs as they did after 9/11 and as they did after Superstorm Sandy.”
Foye said that employees are permitted to wear gloves and masks, but admitted there is a shortage of masks which he said is being addressed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
“The Governor and his team are all over the issue, we have committed to union leadership that we will distribute masks to the entire workforce,” he said.
Damn. Free buses and nowhere to go.