The MTA’s New York City Transit is installing an innovative barrier across 4,800 local buses and 1,000 express buses to protect bus drivers and passengers during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
Installation of a full-length vinyl curtain on express buses is expected to be completed by mid-August. The curtain barriers were developed and manufactured by Bergen Upholstery.
The New Jersey company was awarded the contract to manufacture 1250 sliding barrier curtains for all MTA’s MCI and Prevost coaches. Bergen Upholstery is supplying the same product to charter operators with carries MCI D and J models, Prevost, and VanHool coaches, and is currently working on a design for school buses, a spokeswoman told Bus & Motorcoach News.
MTA’s local buses will be equipped with either a polycarbonate slider or a vinyl curtain, either of which will fully protect bus operators when the MTA resumes front-door boarding.
As passengers board, the operator will slide the barrier forward and then push it back once he or she is ready to proceed driving forward. Express bus customers will continue to board through the front door, but will not be permitted to sit in the first row of the bus to ensure a safe distance from the driver.
The MTA is installing a second prototype on other local buses — a full-length vinyl curtain — which the bus operator can slide back and forth when passengers board. The installation of new barriers across the fleet is expected to be completed by the fall. The MTA will resume front-door boarding on all buses in August.
“This is one of the many innovative solutions we are implementing to keep bus operators safe as more customers make their way back onto buses,” Craig Cipriano, Senior Vice President for the Department of Buses at MTA New York City Transit, and president of the MTA Bus Company, said in a statement. “Together with our union partners, we continue to do everything we can to keep employees and customers safe during the pandemic.”
Rear-door boarding was implemented March 23 on local buses to protect all frontline employees from the spread of COVID-19. The new barriers are intended to protect bus operators as front-door boarding resumes. As these barriers are installed, the vinyl curtain separating the front of the bus will come down, allowing added capacity buses and more room to ensure passengers are able to socially distance from one another.