At the end of the month, city buses will start to collect fares once again in the midst of a $16 billion budget shortfall, the MTA announced during a press conference Tuesday from Michael J. Quill Bus Depot in Manhattan.
Months ago, the agency directed passengers to board buses from the back doors in order to protect drivers from exposure to the coronavirus. But as the MTA loses $200 million a week due to the loss in fares and expenses related to COVID-19, the agency declared that every dollar counts. The agency said that it would have collected $159 million if buses had taken fares during the pandemic. In reality, it’s a fraction of the MTA’s deficit.
The agency is implementing a number of measures to aid in the transition back to fare collection as well as to ensure rider safety.
Officers will be posted on buses to enforce fare payment and mask wearing. Riders in Manhattan and Staten Island will be able to pay their fare with their smart devices through contactless ONMY readers at the front of buses. The MTA will be installing OMNY readers on Bronx buses in the coming weeks.
In order to keep operators safe from exposure, plastic barriers have been installed around the driver’s seat and the MTA is moving the marker that indicates where passengers may stand farther back to increase distance between riders and drivers. Some buses include mask dispensers.
Additionally, more enhanced air filter systems will be installed in buses. The filters will be changed every 30 days.