LONDON, ONT. -- In a little more than a week riders will once again be paying a fare on London transit buses as new barriers have been installed.

The London Transit Commission (LTC) announced Tuesday morning that they would be resuming fare collection and front-door boarding on Aug. 19.

“The Commission’s priority throughout the pandemic has been the safety of our employees and passengers. With the installation of the operator barriers, the return to front-door boarding on our conventional service is now possible,” read the LTC statement.

Passengers will be required to enter through the front door but exit at the back door.

Towards the end of July, a report called for the resumption of fares to begin in September, but LTC General Manager Kelly Paleczny says they've been able to get modifications completed faster than expected.

“The plan and the recommendation that the board approved was to return to front door boarding/fare collection no later than Sept. 1. It had always been our intent to move as quickly as we could, but it was contingent on having enough buses available for service that were equipped with barriers, and we’ll reach that threshold by next Wednesday.”

The order for barriers was place in April, and Paleczny says they've been receiving them in bundles of 20-35 since mid-July and installing as quickly as possible.

“When we encountered COVID, we anticipated that some form of shield like this would form part of the solution moving out. We acted quickly and the commission approved that order back in April, but transit systems across North America are all trying to purchase the same thing, and that’s why there was a lag in the delivery time.”

While fares are now required there will be no monthly passes available for the month of August. For the month - tickets, cash or stored value on a Smart Card will be accepted with transfers being issued as required.

Passes for the month of September will be available beginning Aug. 15. For a list of locations where passes and tickets may be purchased follow this link.

All passengers are reminded that face coverings are required on buses and other forms of transit, however bus operators are not required to wear a mask as they are behind newly installed barriers.

The LTC is calling for people to respectful of those who are not required to wear a mask as they are also not required to explain or prove their exemption.

As of March 20, the LTC stopped collecting fares and allowed riders to board at the rear, in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. Riders were also asked to limit travel to essential trips and to not use transit if they weren't feeling well.

As expected, it has taken a big financial toll on transit and the city.

Councillor Phil Squire, who also sits on the LTC board, says, “That’s a huge plus for us, that we’ll be able to start collecting fares. We’ve been losing $2 million a month in lost revenue, without collecting fares."

But this may not be the end of the budget woes, he adds.

"We don’t know how many people in London are going to resume riding buses right away, so it’s really important that as soon as possible we start getting an idea of what our fares are going to look like going forward."

Paleczny says the current level of service requires 150 buses be ready, which they will be by Aug. 19, and the entire fleet of 217 buses is expected to be fitted with the new barriers by Sept. 6 when they hope to increase service levels to meet demand.

“Our ridership has been steadily been increasing as we see more and more things open, as we move through each of the stages. But, we’ve been in constant contact with Fanshawe and Western, they are anticipating a significant number of their students to return to the city and have interactions with campus. Which means they’ll be relying on transit.”