The Port Authority opened up its Lincoln Tunnel-exclusive bus lanes on Monday for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March.

Traffic from automobiles dropped in March when executive orders from New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo restricted on-site business to essential workers only and issued stay-at-home orders for their states. NJ Transit reported a drop in ridership systemwide, including to buses and trains, of more than 90%. Private carriers cut service or temporarily shut down.

The exclusive lane allows buses to travel eastbound in the westbound lanes weekdays between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m.

According to the Port Authority, automotive traffic has steadily increased since restrictions were loosened in both states, and was just 15% lower than a year ago in July.

NJ Transit bus ridership overall is at approximately 50% of pre-COVID levels, according to spokeswoman Kate Thompson.

The local, or intra-state, market has seen the largest ridership gains, particularly the Newark-based routes, with many of those at 70% or more of pre-COVID levels, according to Thompson. Inter-state, bus ridership is increasing at a slower rate and is at approximately 35% of pre-COVID levels.

Full bus service was restored on June 8.

Before the pandemic the Port Authority said more than 1,850 buses operated by over 100 bus carriers were being used. The Port Authority said the XBL speeds up the ride from New Jersey to the Port Authority bus terminal by 15-20 minutes.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ