CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Transit Authority announced new efforts Thursday to keep bus drivers and passengers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Starting Thursday, April 9, CTA will implement new rear-door boarding and operational changes for buses.
"We continue to look for ways to keep our employees healthy and to provide the service everyone is relying on," said CTA spokesperson Brian Steele.
The new policy will direct passengers to board and exit buses through the rear entry rather than the front. The change is designed to promote social distancing among passengers and CTA bus operators.
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CTA will also introduce bus crowding management, giving bus operators the authority to run as "drop-off only" and bypass certain bus stops if their bus is becoming crowded.
Operators will use the guideline of 15 or more passengers on a standard 40-foot bus, 22 or more passengers on a 60-foot articulated bus.
These new measures will further protect Chicago's transit customers, particularly those on the South and West Sides of Chicago, who represent the highest level of ridership across the system during the stay-at-home order, the mayor's office said.
Pace buses, which run from the suburbs to the city, will waive fare collection in order to board passengers safely. They are also taping off every other row to keep passengers apart.
Most of their buses are not equipped with rear doors, but they are also installing shields to protect drivers from contact with passengers.
"Operators are showing up every day and we want to keep them safe as well as our passengers," said Maggie Daly Skogsbakken, PACE spokesperson.
Officials from the transit agencies say they assume anyone on a bus or train these days is an essential employee heading to work. And because fewer passengers will be allowed on every vehicle, they have no plans to scale back service.
"Offering as many trains and buses as possible helps us achieve the social distancing that's so important," said Steele.
The CTA is still in the process of moving all the fare card readers from the front to the rear. In the meantime, if you get on a bus without a reader in the back, you get a free ride.
Coronavirus Chicago: CTA buses to begin rear-door boarding, 'drop-off only' routes amid COVID-19 outbreak