The MBTA says it is facing a $579 million deficit next fiscal year due to the pandemic and will have to cut costs by sharply reducing subway, commuter rail, bus and ferry service.
In plans released Monday, the transit agency detailed the services it proposes to reduce or eliminate.
According to the proposal, the MBTA would retain 85 percent of its bus service. Fourteen routes would be consolidated, five routes would be shortened, and 25 routes — those that have the least ridership — would be eliminated.
The agency proposes cutting 30 percent of subway service, leading to longer wait times between trains and no service after midnight. The commuter rail would be cut by 35 percent and weekend service would be eliminated. Ferry service — including the Hingham-Hull and Charlestown ferries — would be gone entirely. Ninety-nine percent of trips provided by The RIDE, which serves elderly and disabled passengers, would be retained.
While some service changes on the commuter rail and ferry could take place as early as January, the agency has proposed implementing these changes to rapid transit service in March and to bus service this summer. There are no fare increases being proposed to increase revenue.
See the full plan from the MBTA:
The MBTA says it will reassess service levels for the subway and bus every three months, and for the commuter rail and ferry every six months, and if ridership or available funding increases, some service may be restored. MBTA officials say passengers' return will depend on the availability of a COVID-19 vaccine, the future of local travel and the speed of economic recovery. But Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said at a press conference Monday that she doesn’t expect ridership to return to pre-pandemic levels until at least the summer of 2022.
Transit advocates want the MBTA to delay decisions about altering service. They warn that cutting service would mean some riders may never come back and are pushing for more state and federal funding to pick up the slack. But the MBTA insists it must start planning cutbacks now to reflect current demand and to conserve as much funding as possible so it can restore service when conditions warrant.
General Manager Steve Poftak said in a statement that MBTA ridership dropped by more than 80 percent in March and "has been slow to recover."
A final decision on cuts will be made by the Fiscal Management and Control Board next month, following a series of virtual public hearings.