MBTA releases proposed services changes after ridership drops due to pandemic

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The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority this week released a series of proposed changes to its transit service intended to match new ridership patterns that have emerged as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has resulted in a decline in ridership with the MBTA, similar to what other transit agencies across the country are seeing. MBTA said it is now averaging only 330,000 trips per week. But, the agency said, it is still running at pre-COVID-19 levels of service – which then provided about 1.26 million trips per day.

“COVID-19 has had a significant impact on ridership and the MBTA is releasing these proposed changes to adjust to the realities created by COVID-19, while protecting service for those who depend on it most,” said General Manager Steve Poftak. “I want to reassure our riders that these service changes are not permanent, do not include any fare changes, and will not take effect immediately. We are carrying out a comprehensive outreach process and encourage all members of the public to provide comments and feedback, as we want to hear from riders to help us identify and protect the services that support transit-critical populations and communities.”

The proposed changes, part of the MBTA’s Forging Ahead effort to protect essential transit services, will be subject to public comment through Dec. 4. MBTA will also hold a series of virtual public meetings, a public hearing, and engage the public through community liaisons who will gather feedback directly from riders. The public can also comment through an online form.

The changes in service would preserve the MBTA’s base-level service, or the minimum level of service as determined by the Fiscal and Management Control Board, which includes approximately 80 essential bus routes, the whole of the rapid transit system including subway, and the Fairmont Commuter Rail line. The proposal would temporarily close ferry service.

The proposed changes are not anticipated to go into effect until early 2021.

“The vast majority of MBTA service will continue, and these service adjustments are being proposed to preserve and protect service for those who depend most critically on the MBTA by reducing primarily non-essential services,” said Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. “Using limited resources to operate nearly empty trains, ferries, and buses is not a responsible use of the funding provided to the MBTA by riders, communities, and taxpayers, and does not help us meet transportation needs of our region. We look forward to working closely with the public to ensure we continue providing essential service and help the MBTA afford the growing service we will need to support our customers and communities in the future.”