As officials are urging people to keep their distance from each other during the coronavirus pandemic, the MBTA is trying to make a little more space between drivers and riders on its buses and trains.
Starting Saturday, riders are advised to board the rear doors of buses and street-level trolleys, though seniors and people with disabilities can still board at the front, according to updated service changes posted to the MBTA website late Friday evening.
“We’ve made systemwide service changes to accommodate for decreased ridership and to protect our frontline employees,” the update reads, “while still enabling travel for essential workers, like hospital staff and emergency responders.”
Despite the T's “decreased ridership,” overcrowding is still a major concern. After commuters on some early morning Blue Line trains found themselves packed into cars due to reduced service last week, East Boston State Representative Adrian Madaro reached out to the MBTA to alert them of the problem.
As a response, the MBTA is now increasing service on the Blue Line. “I was glad the T responded immediately by adding additional capacity,” Madaro told WGBH News. “They have been monitoring it every single day, but there is a little bit of room to add further capacity and I'm urging them to do that.”
Madaro says he is asking for even more transit service, if possible, due to the necessity of the public trains and buses. “The folks on the Blue Line are those service workers, the janitors, the medical health professionals,” Madaro said. “those who do not have the good fortune to work from home remotely.”
In a statement, MBTA Spokesperson Joe Pesaturo said service is being monitored and adjusted on high-traffic lines like the Blue Line and the E Branch of the Green Line. “These revisions are implemented to protect the health and safety of the MBTA’s workforce and customers,” Pesaturo said, “while continuing to provide vital transportation services to employees in key industries and workers with limited or no other transportation options.”
The decision to begin boarding on the back of trains and buses is based on guidance from state officials and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Earlier this month, Governor Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency and advised residents to cancel events, close schools and offices, avoid non-essential travel and limit social gatherings.
“These revisions will provide essential services to those who rely on the T to travel, while adding capacity to address concerns related to health and safety,” MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said in a statement. “I want to thank the frontline employees who are providing this critical transportation service during this challenging time.”