Union reacts to Metrobus changes: ‘Are we about safety or are we about money?’

Beginning Sunday, Metrobus riders will resume front-door boarding and paying fares for the first time since March, when riders were ordered to board through the rear doors, away from the bus operator and fare box, as a COVID-19 precaution.

The transit union representing Metrobus operators, pointing to the surge in the pandemic, objected over safety concerns for the operator.

“Let’s give it a few more months, and let’s allow the numbers to come down,” ATU Local 689 First Vice President Carroll Thomas said. “We’re at the highest point — now you want to open the doors? It just doesn’t make sense. Are we about safety or are we about money?”

Metro said it will be safe to board the front of the bus with the bus operator seated behind a plastic shield, everyone wearing masks and buses undergoing daily enhanced cleanings.

General Manager Paul Wiedefeld has also made clear that bus fare collections are necessary to keep Metro employees working and the service running.

The transit union wants the practice of rear-door boarding to remain in place, saying all riders may not have face coverings and the plastic shields might offer insufficient protection for the bus operator.

“We would like for them to keep it the way it is — at least let’s go back to a month-to-month — to make a decision month-to-month — whether or not to go to front-door boarding. I know that at some point, we’re going to have to go back to it; but let’s give the vaccine a chance to work,” Thomas said.

Metro said the return to front-door boarding is consistent with the pandemic recovery plans of other transit agencies, including those in Philadlephia, New York and Boston.

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Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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