MBTA service changes now in effect

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By Max Bowen-max.bowen@northstarreporter.com

Changes to the Commuter Rail and ferry service are now in effect, part of the MBTA’s Forging Ahead plan to adjust transportation to reflect the massive drop in ridership.

According to information posted to the MBTA website, the changes were approved in December by the Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB). The process began in November after impacts of COVID-19 on ridership had been measured. Before COVID-19, the MBTA served an average of 1.3 million trips each weekday. Currently, there are approximately 330,000 trips taken each weekday.

The initial plan was to suspend ferry service, eliminate weekend service on the Commuter Rail, and make alterations to subway, and bus schedules. However, after the MBTA received more than 7,000 comments, the proposal was altered. The new plan maintains most transit services at pre-pandemic service (by as much as 90 percent, depending on mode). No changes to fares are being proposed at this time.

Among some of the points raised via public comments were that reducing service would affect vulnerable communities and harm economic recovery, would cause more people to drive, thus harming the environment, and that the changes would never be reversed.

Many riders acknowledged the financial difficulties the MBTA is facing but urged the T not to make any cuts until learning more about the possibility of federal stimulus funding and vaccine availability,” a report on the Forging Ahead plan stated.

The FMCB will assess service needs again no later than March 15, and will allocate resources to meet ridership demand, if possible. The timing of all service restoration will also depend on public health guidance and the timing of the state’s post-vaccination re-opening plan.

Commuter Rail

Beginning Jan. 23, Commuter Rail will only offer weekend service on the Newburyport/Rockport, Framingham/Worcester, Fairmount, Providence, and Middleborough Lines.

These lines experienced more ridership gains over the last several months compared to other lines and serve transit-critical communities,” a post to the MBTA site stated.

All other Commuter Rail lines will not have weekend service. The new winter schedule includes additional trains on the Middleborough, Fairmount, and Newburyport/Rockport lines.

Since March, the MBTA has introduced new technologies, such as electrostatic sprayers, to help sanitize passenger areas. Attention is given to touch surfaces, employee areas, and air filtration systems. All coach cars continue to be cleaned at least every 24 hours.

Ferry service

On Jan. 23, the following changes will occur to ferry service:

  • Direct Charlestown (F4) and Hingham (F1) ferry service will be temporarily suspended.
  • Weekday Hingham/Hull service will operate with reduced frequency. A total of 17 weekday trips to Boston will make stops from Hingham to Long Wharf (nine trips directly to Long Wharf with two trips also stopping at Hull) and from Hull to Long Wharf (six direct trips total).
  • There will be no weekend Hingham/Hull ferry service.

Bus and subways

Both of these transit modes are expected to see reductions in service, though not until the spring. The Green, Red, and Orange lines will see a 20 percent reduction in service, while the Blue line will be decreased by 5 percent. No changes are planned to the hours of operation.

Bus lines are only seeing 41 percent of normal ridership, and several reductions are expected. This includes reducing the frequency of buses on non-essential route by 20 percent, and 5 percent on essential routes.

Routes 62/76, 84/78, 88/90 (when GLX opens), 136/137, 214/216, 352/354, 501/503, and 502/504 will be consolidated.

Routes 18, 52, 55, 68, 72, 79, 80 (when GLX opens), 170, 212, 221, 325, 326, 351,428, 434, 456, 451, 465, 505, and 710 will be suspended.

For more information, visit the MBTA’s Forging Ahead page.