Furloughs to Begin on MBTA Due to Low Ridership, Lost Revenue

The temporary, one day per month furlough will impact some executives and union workers beginning in February and lasting until June, the MBTA said

The MBTA Red Line train heads towards South Station in the weekday morning in Boston on Dec. 7, 2020.
David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images (File)

Low ridership and lost revenue is forcing the MBTA to begin temporary furloughs for some of its workers, the transportation agency announced in a letter to employees last month.

In a Dec. 18 letter, MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak wrote that because of low ridership due to the coronavirus pandemic, the agency is projecting a budget gap between $54 million and $79 million. Additionally, the MBTA is facing an estimated budget deficit between $577 million and $652 million in fiscal year 2022, Poftak said.

Because the MBTA can't predict when riders will return or how much revenue it will collect when they do, the agency will be implementing a "temporary, one day per month furlough" for some workers beginning in February and lasting until June for a total of five days, Poftak said.

General Manager Steve Poftak said all MBTA services are up and running but urged people to stay home if possible. Poftak said people should allow for extra travel time if commuting is necessary.

The employees impacted by the furlough are non-affiliated executives, Steelworkers, Local 453, and TEA members, according to Poftak. The employees were going to be given notice of their furloughs 30 days in advance, according to the December letter.

"This is not a decision made lightly. You, our workforce, are the T. The men and women operating vehicles, maintaining the system and providing administrative support. Together we have met the challenge to provide essential service to our riders throughout the pandemic," Poftak said.

The MBTA said it hopes to avoid similar actions in the future.

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