Faced with diminished ridership, the MBTA will make a number of short-term changes to service next year following a majority vote on Monday, Dec. 14, by its Fiscal and Management Control Board.
Changes to subway service, which take effect in March or April of 2021, will include a 20-precent reduction in frequency on the Red, Orange and Green lines, said Kat Benesh, the T’s chief of operations strategy, policy, as well as a 5-percent reduction in frequency on the Blue line.
As for changes to bus service, which also go into effect next March or April, 80 essential routes will also see a 5 percent reduction in service while, Benesh said, the frequency of “heavily used routes like the 111 and 116 will have little to no change.”
Additionally, 60 non-essential routes will also be scaled back 20 percent while another 16 routes will be consolidated and four more shortened.
Commuter rail service could be eliminated on weekends on some lines and end as early as 9 p.m. on weeknights beginning in March or April while Charlestown and Hingham direct ferry service will be suspended beginning next month.
The latest changes to service were informed by 10 public meetings, which drew around 2,200 attendees, Benesh said, as well as by 6,723 public comments after the T unveiled its original plan on Nov. 9.
“The service changes approved today will align capacity with ridership demands during Fiscal Year 2021, which ends on June 30, 2021,” MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said in a press release, “and we will continue to analyze ridership and other factors including the economic reopening and vaccine distribution as we plan for Fiscal Year 2022 service levels during our budget process this spring.”
Poftak also said he expected ridership would return “incrementally” as individuals make personal decisions regarding returning to work or school.
Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack said in a press release, “Today’s action by the FMCB ensures that the MBTA will provide more than enough service to meet the needs of transit riders this winter and spring. The resulting savings can be reinvested later, when warranted by durable ridership and consistent with the timing of the post-vaccine economic reopening.”
Ridership on the T has reportedly dwindled from 330,000 trips on an average weekday from around 1.26 million daily trips prior to the pandemic
An amendment offered by Director Monica Tibbits-Nutt to the Service Level vote that required the FMCB to assess the need for additional service to meet ridership demand by no later than March 15, and, if feasible, to allocate additional resources to meet such a demand was accepted in the final proposal.
The T must also receive approval on a Title VI Service Equity Analysis to ensure that no particular group of riders is disparately impacted or disproportionate burdened, as well as undergo an Environmental Review, which is triggered by the planned 10-percent service reduction in accordance with MEPA (Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act).
For a complete listing of all upcoming changes in MBTA service, including all changes to bus routes, visit www.mbta.com/ForgingAhead.