Arlington Transit (ART) on Jan. 3 will be among the bus networks across the Washington region to resume collecting fares and boarding from the front of the bus.
Since the onset of the pandemic, ART and other regional bus systems (as well as regionwide Metrobus) have required most riders to board from the back in an effort to preserve drivers’ health. As none of the networks had the capacity to collect fares at the rear entry point, fares have been waived for months.
In most cases, bus service recoups only about one-third of operating costs (and no capital costs) through the farebox. But the elimination of fares entirely has accentuated the already strained finances of governments that subsidize bus service.
Riders will be able to pay fares by SmarTrip card, the SmartTrip app loaded on certain cellphones, and cash (exact fare only). Facemasks remain required to board and while aboard the buses, and riders are “asked to social-distance onboard the buses and at bus stops.”
Currently, ART routes 41, 42, 43, 45, 51, 52, 55, 75, 77, 84 and 87 are operating regular (pre-pandemic) service, while ART 72 is operating a modified schedule and ART 53, 61, 62 and 74 are not operating.
ART service dates to the 1990s, having been established in part to offer local control and lower costs than relying on Metrobus service for exclusively intra-county routes.
In late December 2019, the Arlington government switched transit providers after inking a five-year deal with Ohio-based First Transit. The previous transit provider, National Express, has been providing service under contract since 2009, but county officials had voiced concerns about on-time reliability and other factors.
Ridership, which had leveled off in recent years – perhaps due to reliability issues – had started a comeback in the latter part of 2019, with passenger counts in the July-to-November time frame up 6.7 percent from a year before to 1.3 million riders. But like transit systems across the region, nation and globe, the onset of the pandemic sent ridership totals plummeting.
For additional information on ART service, see the Website at www.arlingtontransit.com.
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