Bus Riders Must Start Paying Again in August, as MTA Installs New Driver Protections

It’s the end of a free ride for thousands of bus passengers.

The MTA in August plans to make riders enter buses from the front, instead of the rear, with the fare box cordoned off, which has been the policy since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

What You Need To Know

  • Bus passengers starting in August must start boarding at the front and paying their fare.
  • To prevent the spread of coronavirus, the MTA is installing plastic barriers around bus drivers in thousands of buses.
  • The MTA is testing two prototypes, a sliding plastic barrier and a vinyl curtain.

It’s made possible by plastic barriers being tested out on thousands of buses; one prototype, a sliding plastic barrier, is going into 4,200 buses, while the other is a vinyl curtain, which will go into 600 buses and 1,000 express busses.

These barriers will be installed through the fall.

With bus drivers protected and riders able to dip their MetroCards, the MTA will get a much-needed infusion of cash after losing billions of dollars in revenue from rock-bottom ridership during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’ve got to get back to a place where we’re able to collect fares,” said Sarah Feinberg, interim president of NYC Transit. “I think everyone knows it’s no surprise that the MTA’s financial situation is dire.”

MTA officials unveiled the designs Tuesday at the Michael J. Quill Bus Depot in Midtown.

“I think most of the bus operators are still at a nervous stage and they’re looking for more protection,” said Richard Davis, who represents Manhattan and Bronx bus drivers at the Transport Workers Union Local 100. “It’s a step in the right direction and it’s helpful to us, as far as feeling safe.”

The sliding barrier costs about $1,500 per bus, while the curtains are cheaper — costing up to $500 per bus to install.

For a long-term solution, the MTA is considering a set up that fully encloses the driver in their seat.