MBTA Mulls Bus, Ferry and Commuter Rail Service Cuts

Services on lower-ridership bus routes, most commuter rail lines and some ferries seem mostly likely to see cuts at the MBTA starting next year

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The MBTA is mulling some severe service cuts to lower its operating budget as the coronavirus pandemic continues to take a toll on ridership levels.

The agency is considering eliminating weekend service on some or all Commuter Rail lines, halting Commuter Rail trains after 9 p.m. on weekdays, eliminating ferries, consolidating bus routes and trimming bus or train frequency to help close the agency's massive budget gap, officials said Monday.

The T expects to face a COVID-inflicted budget shortfall of between $308 million to $577 million unless it receives additional aid during fiscal year 2022.

MBTA officials have recommended slicing between $60 million to $255 million of spending the 2021 and 2022 fiscal years to help manage the shortage, targeting routes with low ridership potential and a smaller portion of "transit-critical" riders for the steepest cuts.

But most of the subway system -- except for the Green Line's B, C, D and E branches -- is considered an essential service because it has high potential for ridership to recover from pandemic-era lows and a large number of transit-dependent riders.

Most bus routes, representing about 65 percent of bus service hours, are also rated essential, with the remainder deemed less important because of lower ridership potential, less dependent commuters, or both.

Subway ridership continues to linger at about 24 percent of pre-pandemic averages, while bus ridership varies by route but together is averaging about 40 percent of normal levels.

T staff plan to present options for comprehensive, line-by-line changes on Nov. 2, then open a month-long public feedback period before the Fiscal and Management Control Board reaches a final decision on Dec. 7.

Meanwhile, the full transformation of the Red and Orange Line fleets will be delayed by at least a year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and pre-existing manufacturing issues, MBTA officials announced Monday.

State House News Service contributed to this report.

NBC/State House News Service
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