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NYC local buses a free ride for all during coronavirus outbreak

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Friday announced it’s suspending fare collection on all of its local bus routes in order to keep drivers and riders a safe distance apart.

Starting Monday, only the back doors on local and select buses will open for riders, who will be directed to stand at least six feet away from bus drivers. Front doors will still be opened for riders with limited mobility so they can use buses’ wheelchair ramps.

Riders will still be asked to pay for select bus rides at on-street payment boxes, officials said.

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On express buses, which only have one door, riders will also have to pay a fare, but will not be allowed to sit in the first three rows of seats.

“We know we are essential workers providing an essential service during this national emergency, but we also need to be protected to the greatest extent possible,” said Transport Workers Union Local 100 president Tony Utano. “This is the right move. It will better protect our bus operators, give them peace of mind, and demonstrate New York City Latest News that their concerns have been heard.”

It’s the second time in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s 55-year history that people have been allowed to board all local buses without paying. Free buses were also offered after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.


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The move came a day after the agency reported at least 23 of its employees tested positive for Covid-19, sparking dozens of bus operators to call in sick or self-quarantine.

“Transit workers are the lifeblood of this city and region and we are going to do everything we can to protect their health and safety," said MTA chairman Pat Foye.

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The move won’t be cheap, and it bleeds more money from the MTA’s revenues that already are being cratered by low ridership during the outbreak.

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Before and After: Iconic NYC locations affected by coronavirus
MTA officials on Tuesday announced bus ridership was down by 50%, or about 900,000 rides a day on local routes. New York City Press Release Distribution Service Ridership is likely to fall even further as Gov. Cuomo has ordered all non-essential workers to shelter at home to contain the spread of the disease.

It’s unclear how the free rides will impact MTA finances — but agency officials last year griped that roughly 25% of bus riders already evade the fare, and estimated bus fare evasion cost the agency $12 million a month.

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