The TCAT Board of Directors voted unanimously to extend TCAT’s no-fare policy through Sat., Sept. 5, to continue the practice of social distancing between drivers and riders.

At their regularly scheduled meeting Thurs., June 25, board members voted for the third time since the policy first went into effect March 20, just as confirmed reports of the coronavirus pandemic began surfacing in Tompkins County and across the state.

The fare-free policy eliminates the need for riders to go near or put their hands on the farebox, which is located next to the drivers’ area.

By early fall, TCAT will install permanent protective barriers to separate drivers from the farebox equipment, said Assistant General Manager Mike Smith, who oversees TCAT’s operations and maintenance.

Given the large number of transit agencies now purchasing these types of shatterproof, anti-glare glass shields, manufacturers have a backlog of orders. In the meantime, Smith said, TCAT will install temporary barriers in the coming weeks that will enable TCAT to resume collecting fares. (The TCAT board will consider and vote whether to reinstate fare collection after Sept. 5 at its Aug. 27 meeting.)

Numerous transit agencies, especially those serving large metropolitan areas, already have permanent protective barriers in place on their fleets to shield drivers from spills, the spread of germs and — though rare in TCAT’s service area — unruly or threatening passengers.

As another protective measure, TCAT continues to stress that riders must wear face coverings or masks to board and ride the bus. Additionally, TCAT continues to adhere to strict protocols with the disinfection of buses and facilities used by employees and riders.

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