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RTS halts fares, changes rules to combat coronavirus outbreak

RTS Bus on Main Street in downtown Rochester
James Brown /
RTS Bus on Main Street in downtown Rochester

All RTS rides will be free starting Friday until further notice. CEO Bill Carpenter said that'll limit the amount of times the fare box is touched during the coronavirus outbreak. 

An RTS employee tested positive for COVID-19 this week, but Carpenter says this decision is unrelated.

He says ridership is down 40 percent this week and he expects it to dwindle further. , Carpenter consulted with Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, and they agreed that people will continue to use buses for basic needs. He said he also consulted with the Monroe County Health Department before bringing this matter to his board on Thursday.

“The president has talked about going to war with the virus,” said Carpenter. “The governor’s talked about going to war with the virus. We feel that this is a step we can take to help win that war.”

Carpenter also said bus riders will enter and exit through the back door, with a few exceptions. 

“If someone has mobility issues,” said Carpenter. “Maybe they have a walker, maybe they have a hip problem, perhaps you’re in a wheelchair, the bus operator will open the front door.”

To meet social distancing policies, his expectation is that riders remain 6 feet apart on the bus, at the stop, or the transit center -- even if it means a longer trip.

“We understand that on some bus rides that people will be closer than 6 feet,” said Carpenter. “We would encourage some people to wait for the next bus.”

He said bus riders who have already purchased monthly or weekly passes will be credited.

Carpenter said he expects these policies to last until Monroe County’s state of emergency ends.

James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.