LTC to start collecting fares again

A London Transit bus on Richmond Street. (File photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

The free ride will soon be over for London Transit users.

The London Transit Commission announced on Tuesday that it will start collecting fares again on Wednesday, August 19.

“The commission’s priority throughout the pandemic has always been the safety of our employees and passengers,” the LTC said in a statement released Tuesday. “With the installation of the operator barriers, the return to front door boarding on our conventional service is now possible. Passengers will be required to enter through the front door and exit through the back door to promote a one-direction flow. Passengers with accessibility needs will still be permitted to use the front door to exit.”

The LTC said tickets, cash, or Smart Cards will be accepted and transfers will be given out when needed. However, monthly passes will not be available for the month of August. Passes for September will be available for purchase as of August 15.

London Transit has not collected fares since March 20, when it introduced rear boarding as a way to facilitate physical distancing and better protect its drivers from COVID-19. The safety measure, which limits contact, means riders have been entering and exiting through the rear bus doors, eliminating the LTC’s ability to collect fares since fare collection equipment is located at the front entrance of city buses.

The decision to waive bus fares for nearly five months had been a costly one for the LTC. It is now facing an estimated $8.7 million budget deficit. In April, the LTC voted to scrap its 2020 service upgrades, which included the implementation of 18,000 hours of additional conventional service and 6,000 more hours of specialized service.

Protective barriers to surround transit drivers were approved in April. They arrived earlier this month and the LTC has been working to install them in 159 of the buses ever since.

“Thank you to our passengers for your patience as we worked through these unforeseen times and to our employees for their continued support in ensuring an ongoing service was available throughout the pandemic,” the LTC said.