The recovery from the Covid-19 outbreak took another step forward with the announcement by Westchester County Executive George Latimer that the county’s Bee-Line bus service will resume standard operations, including fare collections, beginning Sept. 8.
Back on March 23, the buses were adapted so that riders could enter and exit only through the rear doors to provide separation from drivers. Collection of fares was suspended and service curtailed. All routes are currently operating on normal schedules and all buses have been outfitted with protective barriers that provide floor-to-ceiling plastic sheeting around bus operators. The front doors again will be used and fares collected.
“We will continue to do everything to ensure safety on the Bee-Line for both our passengers and our drivers. With protective driver shields being installed on the entire fleet of 325 buses, we are confident that we can safely bring back front door boarding and return the system to a more normal operation,” Latimer said at an Aug. 31 news conference held at the bus system’s Valhalla depot.
Riders still will be required to wear face masks and will be encouraged to sit at least 6 feet from other passengers. In normal times, the Bee-Line serves more than 27 million passengers annually. More than 65% of all county residents are within walking distance of a Bee-Line bus route.
Hugh Greechan, commissioner of the county’s Department of Public Works and Transportation, said, “We have been closely monitoring what other transit agencies are doing during this pandemic. In unprecedented times it is important that we are following industry best practices. With several agencies now resuming front door boarding on buses, including NJ Transit and NICE Bus, we are consistent with other mass transit systems.”
Yonkers-based Liberty Lines continues to operate the Bee-Line bus service under a five-year contract renewal signed in 2018. When the contract renewal was announced, Latimer said it was valued at approximately $638 million with a peak payment in the final year, 2023, of $136 million. The renewal was expected to save the county about $20 million compared with what it had been paying.
In May, it was announced that as part of Covid-19 aid the Federal Transit Administration was providing $30,180,206 for the county’s Bee-Line system that could be used to cover operating expenses, such as driver salaries, fuel and personal protective equipment and supplies.