OCTA announced a two-month rollout of front-door boarding starting in October after months of rear-door boarding in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in an email to riders on September 13.
The rollout started with bus routes 43 and 543 which go from Fullerton to Costa Mesa followed by routes 60, 53, 47, 66. 37, 50, 29 and 55. Things like hand sanitizer will be placed in the front of the bus and face masks will be handed out for free to riders without one.
The switch was implemented as OCTA’s Maintenance Department gained the resources to install plexiglass borders protecting drivers from passengers, replacing the yellow chain that hung between two seats in the second row of each bus. Once the chain is removed, six more seats will become available.
The initial switch to rear-door boarding began in late-March and was coupled with hand sanitizer available for passengers, nightly cleanings and a face mask requirement for riders.
So far, 82 OCTA employees and contractors have tested positive for COVID-19, two of which have tested positive since last month.
The ticket swiping station, as a result, has been blocked off. Although OCTA officially requires riders to buy tickets, it relied on the honor system. No bus drivers actively checked whether or not riders purchased their bus passes.
“I have a bus pass provided from my employer, but I know that there’s a bunch of people who don’t bother to buy a bus pass,” said Joe Rodriguez, OCTA bus rider.
As part of their front-boarding training, drivers will have to receive training on how to reeducate passengers to use the farebox again.
Fullerton College announced in 2020 that students will now be required to purchase a transportation pass for $5.75 for full-time students and $5.00 for part-time students.
The pandemic has led to a 50% decline in ridership from 125,000 riders pre-pandemic to 65,000 riders this month. OCTA has responded to lower ridership by switching to a modified Saturday schedule, leading to wait times up to 75 minutes for riders in North and South Orange County.
When the bus reaches full-capacity per social distancing standards, bus drivers are no longer allowed to accept more passengers. A “bus full” notice will be displayed on the front of the bus, and passengers must wait to board the next bus.
The OCTA website recommends checking online and on their mobile app for details on how full their local bus routes are and thoroughly planning when using the bus.
“We understand this is a situation that is truly unprecedented in all aspects of our lives and bus services is no different, we’re doing our best to provide service while at the same time helping to protect passengers and protecting employees,” said OCTA Media Relations Officer Joel Zlotnik.
For more information regarding OCTA, service changes visit https://www.octa.net/Bus/Riders-Alerts/Service-Change/