Starting Wednesday, Greater Portland Metro will require all passengers to wear face masks or other coverings before boarding the bus.

Face masks, bandanas, scarves or other types of face coverings must cover an individual’s mouth and nose and must be worn for the duration of the ride, according to a statement issued by Greater Portland Metro this week.

In addition to the face-covering rule, Metro has recently instituted other changes to protect riders and drivers from contracting COVID-19.

Passengers must use the rear entrance to board a bus, except those who need to use the ramp, and Metro drivers will not allow more than 10 passengers on a bus at a time. All trips are one-way, to eliminate continuous riding. Passengers are being asked to keep their distance from other riders, unless they are traveling together.

Gov. Janet Mills’ March 31 executive order prohibits anyone from using public transportation unless it is for a designated essential reason through April 30. Public transit is considered essential for those who need it for work, medical appointments, pharmacy trips, food shopping and other critical needs.

Metro’s board of directors also voted last month to suspend all fares until further notice. Letting people ride for free reduces face-to-face contact between drivers and riders. On a typical day prior to the new policies, a driver would have to accept cash, monthly passes and paper transfers.

The restrictions come a few months after the bus service set a ridership record. Passengers rode the transit system 2.1 million times in 2019, and ridership on the region’s largest public transit system has grown by 45 percent since 2013.

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