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NYC’s Free Ride is Over

MTA buses – including to JFK and LGA – will start charging for rides again beginning August 31

New York City buses have been the favorite form of transportation for former straphangers who worry about being in confined subway cars with fellow travelers during the COVID-19 pandemic. 


The MTA buses (including those that take passengers to LaGuardia and to JFK airports) have been free since the shutdown that saw the city’s transit authority cordoning off the fronts of buses to allow for social distancing.


These plastic wrapped no-go zones meant that passengers could not reach fare boxes and pay their fare. As a consequence, the MTA says that it has lost millions in the months during which public buses have been virtually free to all passengers.


But the free ride is coming to an end.


As of Aug. 31, the MTA will be using special Plexiglas panels to cordon off the bus driver’s seat from the fare box and the fares will be due again.


As free bus rides became more and more popular, the idea of social distancing in a New York public bus has become more and more difficult. Buses are generally full and passengers are sitting next to one another, although masks are required.

“They should just keep it the way it is for a while,” one MTA bus driver told Business Traveler. “Many of these people have lost their jobs and they can’t afford the fare. And that Plexiglas partition is not making me feel safe.”


Travelers transiting through NYC and using the bus system to get to JFK should know that the normal fare will apply and is $2.75. On the LaGuardia airport shuttle you must purchase your ticket from a machine outside on the bus platform. For the Q10 bus that goes from Union Turnpike subway station (E, F line) to JFK, the fare will be deposited in the new cordoned off boxes beginning Monday, Aug. 31.