CUMTD plans to resume fare enforcement while pandemic drags on

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Eliana Chandra

The MTD bus drives around on campus. MTD is resuming fares during Covid-19.

By Da Yeon Eom, Staff Writer

Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District will resume fare enforcement and require front door boarding on Aug. 15. Both operators and passengers riding the buses or entering the Illinois Terminal are still required to wear a mask at all times.  

For the last 18 months, MTD had suspended fare collection and pass validation to eliminate the direct exchange of cash, transfers or reviewing passenger cards to protect the safety and health of all passengers and employees. MTD had also temporarily implemented rear door boarding during this period. 

The decision was made to resume fare enforcement and front door boarding as the Restore Illinois plan entered Phase 5 and the COVID-19 vaccine became available for all Illinois residents 12 years of age and older. 

“We have surveyed the public in the spring of 2021 and found that 96% of passengers would continue to ride with us when fares are reintroduced,” said Autumn Soliman, marketing manager at CUMTD. 

Although fare enforcement has returned, MTD announced that the cost of an annual pass has been reduced from $84 to $60. The newly reduced cost, implemented since July 27, means annual and monthly pass holders can purchase their new passes at the Customer Service counter at Illinois Terminal. 

In addition to the reduced cost, MTD has introduced fare-capping in Token Transit where if a passenger purchases $20 (the cost of a monthly pass) in single-ride fares through Token Transit, they will be automatically upgraded to a monthly pass at no extra cost for the rest of the month. 

While the suspension of fares has ended, Soliman noted that MTD is trying to accommodate the community that has entered “a state of recovery on our road back to normal.” 

MTD offers DASH Cards to eligible riders with disabilities or seniors 65 years and older, which provides unlimited free access to the fixed-route bus service, Soliman said.

“We also provide free passes to veterans, and it is worth noting that MTD’s fares are already heavily subsidized for our riders,” she said. 

According to Soliman, all passengers and employees are encouraged to wear proper face masks while onboard the buses or visiting the facilities regardless of their vaccination status. She added that MTD plans to continue providing access to hand sanitizing dispensers and masks and to maintain rigorous cleaning practices. 

Nolan Jackson, MTD operator, said hand sanitizer dispensers and masks are of no use if people refuse to use them. 

While she said front door boarding and fare enforcement will take place at some point so it’s better to enforce it sooner rather than later, she expressed concerns about certain passengers who refuse to wear masks. 

“We don’t know if they are vaccinated or not, so even if (operators) are vaccinated, we still have a chance of catching COVID-19,” Jackson said in a phone interview. 

The University has required face coverings inside all campus facilities starting July 30 due to the recent increase in confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Champaign County. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID data tracker indicates that the community transmission rate is high even though almost 70% of adults have received at least one vaccination. 

A new study published by CDC indicates that Delta COVID-19 variant produced similar amounts of virus in vaccinated and unvaccinated people if they get infected. Following the news, companies such as Walmart and Disney are requiring their employees to get vaccinated. 

“People shouldn’t need to be reminded to keep everyone else safe,” Jackson said. “They should just want to be safe.”

She urged everyone to keep their masks on as soon as they leave the house and to continue diligently washing their hands. 

“My main concern for myself and other operators is that we would bring (COVID-19) home to our children, even though we have been vaccinated,” Jackson said. 

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