Prince George’s County’s TheBus will start charging fares in January; free rides continue on Montgomery County’s RideOn

Two area bus systems have reacted differently to the news that Metrobuses will resume charging fares and opening the front doors on Sunday.

While Prince George’s County’s TheBus system announced that it too will begin charging fares next week, Montgomery County’s RideOn program announced Tuesday that their rides will stay free, and passengers will get on and off buses through the rear door only.

While the RideOn system said it would start charging again at some point in 2021, they don’t yet know when.

“Transit operators throughout the region continue to adjust to provide the best service possible while also protecting our bus operators and passengers,” Montgomery County Department of Transportation Director Chris Conklin said in the statement. “We hope to get the word out that Ride On bus operations remain unchanged at this time, despite Metrobus adjustment to boarding and fare collection. In an ongoing response to the health crisis, passengers using Ride On, Ride On Extra, and Flash buses will continue to board using the rear door and will not be asked to pay to ride.”

Meanwhile, Prince George’s County’s TheBus is set to charge passengers again and allow front-door boarding next week, following Metrobus’ lead.

The “step toward normalcy” will begin Jan. 4, after TheBus provided months of free service and required backdoor entrance because of the coronavirus pandemic, Prince George’s County spokeswoman Paulette Jones said.

“These changes come after extensive safety and cleaning protocols were introduced into the system, including the installation of protective barriers on all vehicles,” she said in a release.

Jones urged riders to use SmarTrip cards so they can pay swiftly, limiting bus drivers’ possible exposure to the coronavirus. If a rider doesn’t have a prepaid card, she said, passengers should have the exact $1 fare ready.

Earlier in December, WMATA made a similar decision to begin collecting fares and opening front doors at the start of the new year.

While TheBus passengers won’t be able to ride free next year, the county will reduce the standard one-way fare to $1. The bus service charged $1.25 before the pandemic.

Senior citizens, those with disabilities and children under 2 will continue to ride free of charge after Jan. 4.

Bus routes and schedules will not change.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Luke Garrett

Luke Garrett is a D.C. native dedicated to journalism. He joined the WTOP newsroom in 2020 after graduating from the University of San Diego, where he studied physics and philosophy.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2012 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He went to George Washington University as an undergraduate and is regularly surprised at the changes to the city since that faraway time.

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