Service cuts to the MBTA's weekend commuter rail schedule will take effect starting Saturday, according to public transit officials.
The cuts, approved in a 3-2 vote by the Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB) back in December, are aimed at trimming spending in the 2021 fiscal year and taking advantage of the significantly lower ridership numbers amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Starting Saturday, the MBTA commuter rail will only offer weekend service on the Newbury/Rockport, Framingham/Worcester, Fairmount, Providence and Middleborough Lines as part of the new Winter Service Schedule. Ridership numbers have been higher on these lines throughout the pandemic and serve transit-critical communities, according to a statement released by the MBTA.
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The new schedule changes come after fall 2020 weekday ridership decreased to just 8% of the ridership seen in the fall of 2019.
Additional trains will be added to the Middleborough, Fairmount and Newbury/Rockport Lines to help fill service gaps from the previous schedule, according to the MBTA.
The public transportation authority has introduced electrostatic sprayers and other technologies to aid in the sanitization process amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This is part of the MBTA's enhanced cleaning process, which also includes added attention to touch services and air filtration systems, according to the statement.
Ferry service, for which ridership has fallen to around 12% of pre-pandemic levels, will also operate with an updated schedule starting Saturday, the MBTA says.
Direct Charlestown (F4) and Hingham (F1) service is suspended temporarily, while weekday Hingham/Hull service will run at a reduce capacity with 17 total weekday trips to and from Boston.
The ferry will not make any weekend trips for Hingham/Hill.
The FMCB says it will reevaluate all changes by or before March 15 and make changes based on ridership demand and public health guidance.