Union Officials Review New Bus Barrier Concepts

Sec-Treas Earl Phillips examines new partition at Quill Depot in Manhattan
Sec-Treas Earl Phillips examines new partition at Quill Depot in Manhattan

JUNE 30 -- The MTA today showcased new barriers to separate Bus Operators from riders as it looks to resume fare collection some time in August. There could be additional modifications but under the current MTA plan there are different retrofits for different bus models.

The vast majority of buses – 4,200 locals – will get a retrofit with a sliding see-through polycarbonate panel extending towards the front windshield, MTA officials said. When manually extended, the sliding panel extends about 18-inches farther towards the windshield than existing partitions. Approximately 600 older buses (Orions), and all 1,000 express buses, initially would get retractable vinyl curtains. But the authority is developing prototypes for those buses similar to the more solid, sliding-panel design, transit management said. When fare collection resumes, riders will not be allowed to sit in the front row, the MTA said.

TWU Local 100 Secretary-Treasurer Earl Phillips, MaBSTOA Vice President Richard Davis and MTA Bus/Private Lines V.P. Pete Rosconi were among the Local 100 officers who inspected the barriers at the Quill Depot. MTA officials said the authority will retrofit as many buses as possible before resuming front-door boarding and fare collection, but said the entire fleet may not be done by then.

Local 100 President Tony Utano said any bus going into passenger service will have to have a barrier if passengers are to board through the front door. “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.

For a longer-term upgrade, Utano and Phillips have previously urged the MTA to pursue a completely new bus design where Bus Operators are enclosed in a cab that extends the entire width of the bus. The front door of such a bus is shifted behind the front right wheel. MTA bus officials on Tuesday said they are looking into that possibility. "These are steps in the right direction and we will continue to push the MTA, as we have for years, to improve safety for our Bus Operators," Phillips said.