The MTA on Wednesday began massive service reductions for operations outside of rush hour on its bus and rail lines as the state coronavirus outbreak has resulted in the agency hemorrhaging riders and revenue.
Two days earlier, all city buses began rear-door boarding as per an agreement among the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the two unions representing bus operators.
“The MTA is committed to getting the heroes who keep this city moving where they need to go,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye. “The dramatic decrease in ridership shows our customers are continuing to follow the advice of health professionals to keep themselves and others safe. But we’re here for the critical workers and first responders, and I also want to thank our transit workers who continue to show up and keep New York moving every single day.”
The MTA said most subway and bus riders would not notice the impact of its Essential Service Plan.
The agency said 75 percent of all bus service will be retained, while any rail lines reduced or temporarily eliminated Monday through Friday will be covered by “other local service.”
The agreement on rear door bus boarding includes the Amalgamated Transit Union and the Transport Workers Union, who said the move is designed to protect drivers from potential virus exposure by ensuring a safer distance between them and passengers.
Customers will board and exit all local and Select Bus Service buses using the rear doors. Express bus customers will board as normal, but will not be permitted to sit in the first three rows of the bus to ensure customers are a safe social distance from bus operators.
Queens buses on Monday morning had the front three rows cordoned off by yellow chains. Riders using wheelchairs and other ADA customers will still be permitted to board at the front of all local and SBS buses, and board as usual on express buses.
Regular fare policy remains in effect wherever on-board payment boxes or SBS off-board ticket machines continue to be accessible.
“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,” Foye said in a statement on Monday.
Mark Henry, president and business agent for ATU Local 1056, praised the agreement, along with his members.
“This coalition of unions acknowledges the MTA for recognizing their concerns by acting on this initiative,” Henry said. “Rear doors access is necessary given the way our state, our city and our nation are dealing with coronavirus. We pray for all residents as the health risks are great and unknown; together we will overcome the challenges before us.”
“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 Tony Utano, president of TWU local 100. “This is the right move. It will better protect our Bus Operators, give them some peace of mind, and demonstrate that their concerns have been heard.”