After announcing last week that Ride On buses would resume fare collection on Monday, the county reversed its decision and extended the fare suspension through June 30.
The decision follows a letter from the County Council, calling on the Montgomery County Department of Transportation to delay fare collection. The council mentioned the impact on low-income residents who rely on public transit and have been financially affected by the pandemic.
The county stopped collecting fares on March 16 last year to limit personal interactions between bus drivers and passengers.
The standard cost per trip is $2.
County Executive Marc Elrich directed the transportation department to continue free service on the county buses at least through the end of the current fiscal year, according to a press release on Tuesday.
“Many of our residents who rely on public transportation have been severely impacted economically by the pandemic, and we must continue to do everything we can to assist them to move around the County and region,” Elrich said in a statement.
He added that the decision was assisted by the funds the county received from the federal American Rescue Plan.
On Monday, the buses will begin front-door boarding again. Clear protective partitions are installed between seats for riders, people entering the front door and bus drivers.
Masks are required to be worn on the buses. If a rider does not have a mask, the bus driver will provide one.
The inside of the buses will be cleaned twice a day with hospital-grade disinfectants, according to the release. Filter and ventilation systems are disinfected, as well.
In a letter on Monday addressed to county Director of Transportation Christopher Conklin, the council wrote that bus fare should remain free to give residents the best access to the county’s mass vaccination site and other vaccine clinics.
“While we are under a State of Emergency due to the pandemic, reintroducing fares is both poor timing and ignores the needs of our residents who currently rely on Ride On for their daily responsibilities and those who will rely on it to get vaccinated,” the council said.
Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at email@example.com.