NEW YORK -  MTA bus riders have to board from the front and pay their fares again.

As of Monday, rear-boarding and free rides have ended now that buses are equipped with Plexiglass panels to separate drivers from passengers.

As NY1's Dan Rivoli reported, the back-door boarding began in March as a way to protect drivers from being exposed to the coronavirus. Because the fare box is by the front door, the MTA decided to do away with fare payment, too.

The MTA estimates it would have collected $159 million had all bus riders been paying their way during the pandemic — a big sum, but a fraction of the billions of dollars in red ink caused by plunging subway ridership.

There will also be a new busway tomorrow in Downtown Brooklyn, with service running along Jay Street from Tillary Street to the intersection of Livingston and Smith Streets.

The area will be largely limited to buses, trucks and cyclists.

The Jay Street busway will be open from 7 A.M. to 7 P.M.

MTA Chairman Pat Foye is continuing to sound the alarm about the agency's financial crisis.

On the local radio show “The Cats Roundtable,” he again urged the federal government to give the MTA $12 billion in funding to help get them out of the financial hole.

“Right now, we need $12 billion from the federal government to get us through the remainder of 2020 and 2021,” Foye said. “It's really critical that the MTA get this $12 billion of funding so that we can continue operating, continue taking first responders and essential employees, working people, office workers to work to help in the recovery of the New York City economy. We described cuts in subway service that could be as high as up to 40 percent, and having to lay off up to over 7,000 employees."

Foye has also warned of an increase in fares and the halting of improvement projects.

The federal government gave the MTA $3.9 billion in April through the Cares Act, but Foye says the MTA spent the last of that funding on July 24.