Monday, 21 Sep 2020

MTA installing plastic barriers on buses to protect drivers

The MTA will install plexiglass and plastic curtain barriers to shield bus drivers — ahead of a planned August return to front-door bus boarding and fare collection, officials said Tuesday

Officials hope to roll out the $1,500-per-bus plexiglass dividers on 4,200 local buses starting in July or August, with completion expected sometime in the fall, buses chief Craig Cipriano said during a demo at the Michael J. Quill Bus Depot in Manhattan on Tuesday.

Another 600 local buses and 1,000 express buses will get plastic shower curtain-like vinyl separation by the end of August, at a cost of $300 to $500 per bus, Cipriano said.

“This is a near-term solution. We’re also working on other solutions that are… long term,” he told reporters. “One solution we’re engaging our bus manufacturers on is the potential to have a fully-enclosed bus operator compartment.”

“But that’s a new design of a bus. That wouldn’t happen for some time.”

New York City local buses have been fare-free and backdoor-only since March 23 in order to protect bus drivers from contracting the coronavirus. Since March, more than 10,000 MTA employees have called out sick at one point, and 132 workers have died from the virus.

Transit officials have previously teased plans to better shield bus operators from passengers as bus ridership has rebounded faster than subway ridership, to about 52 percent pre-pandemic levels.

But an exact date has not been set for the resumption of front door service and fare collection. Cipriano deflected when asked whether passengers will be allowed to enter through the front door on buses without the enhanced dividers.

“We’re on a very aggressive, accelerated roll-out,” he said. “We’ll do everything we can in regards to providing proper protection for our operators.”

TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano warned transit officials should think twice before resuming front door boarding on buses that don’t have the extra protection.

“We’re not going to allow our bus operators to pull out a bus without a barrier of protection while the pandemic is going on,” Utano said.

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