Despite strong pushback, the MBTA is barreling ahead with significant service reductions early next year, cutting the frequency of subway and bus trips, some commuter rail weekend service, ferry schedules and more in an attempt to reduce costs amid a pandemic-fueled budget crunch.

With a 3-2 vote that capped off months of planning, public outcry and debate, the T's Fiscal and Management Control Board approved virtually all of the changes that MBTA staff had proposed, resurfacing long-simmering frustrations over the transit agency's funding and leaving unclear when or how services will be restored.

The board made a handful of changes aimed at keeping some commuter rail service after 9 p.m., setting a target date for determining if the agency needs to increase service, and ensuring that fare hikes — which had not been recently proposed — will not factor into the agency's upcoming budget deliberations.

Cuts set to hit in January and March are scaled back from an earlier proposal and aimed only at the second half of fiscal year 2021. MBTA officials plan to decide in the spring whether to keep them in place, restore some service, or implement additional cuts in FY22, which begins July 1.

The outlook for T usage and revenues remains hazy, with the potential for a new round of federal funding, vaccination timelines, and changes in commuting behaviors complicating the T's calculations.

"Part of the reason why we have somewhat bifurcated the decision-making in this process is we want to see what we learn over the next few months," MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak told reporters ahead of Monday's meeting. "We want to let all of those items -- I don't know that they're going to resolve themselves definitively, but we will have a lot more information in February and March than we do right now."

The T also got a boost last week when Gov. Charlie Baker signed a fiscal year 2021 statewide budget and his administration upgraded its tax revenue projections. Under the latest figures, the T could receive another $52 million in sales tax revenue this spending year -- more than half as much as the net savings under the original service cut plan -- that it did not anticipate.

FMCB members Joseph Aiello, Monica Tibbits-Nutt and Brian Lang supported the board vote, while members Chrystal Kornegay and Tim Sullivan voted against it.

Kornegay and Sullivan voted against a Lang amendment, which passed by the same 3-2 margin, requiring the FMCB and its successor board to avoid increasing fares on buses and subways before both ridership and service hours return to fall 2019 levels.

All five board members were appointed by Baker, whose administration oversees the MBTA and who has slammed the idea of running trains and buses on pre-COVID schedules for a fraction of the riders as "bad public policy."

The vote drew vocal condemnation from many of the interests that have spent the past several months urging board members to rule out service cuts.

Many elected officials, transportation activists and community leaders argued that reducing service to cope with a budget gap is a short-sighted strategy that will strand riders, particularly in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, amid a public health crisis.

Jen Benson, a former state representative and president of the Alliance for Business Leadership, said Monday evening that the cuts "will set us back in our efforts to make our transit systems more accessible and equitable."

"Despite assurances from MBTA leadership, these cuts will be difficult to reverse and will alter the commutes of thousands of people, pushing more of them away from public transit and into cars," Benson said in a statement. "Many commuters, including essential workers, will be stranded without late-night and weekend commuter rail service, and more riders will be crowded onto fewer subway cars. With today's news that the first COVID-19 vaccines are being administered in the U.S., we should be preparing for the recovery to begin, not surrendering our public services to the pandemic."

The vote also came as Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, citing the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, ordered gyms, movie theaters, museums and other indoor event spaces in Boston to close for general in-person use, starting on Wednesday. Walsh said leaders in nearby communities are also planning to announce new COVID-19 restrictions.

Under the plan, unveiled and approved Monday, the T will halt weekend commuter rail service on all but five lines starting in January, as well as reduce Hingham and Hull ferry service and cut all Charlestown and Hingham direct ferry service to Boston.

Weekend service will remain available, but less frequent, on the Worcester, Providence, Newburyport/Rockport, Middleboro and Fairmount Lines, which officials say together represent about two-thirds of the commuter rail's COVID-era weekend ridership.

Other major changes will hit in March: 20 bus routes will be eliminated; frequency will drop 20 percent on non-essential bus routes and 5 percent on essential bus routes; gaps between Red, Orange and Green Line trains will increase 20 percent; Blue Line trains will run up to 5 percent less frequently; and more commuter rail cuts will arrive, including possible reductions in service after 9 p.m.

Board members added three amendments to the package before approving it. One, suggested by Aiello, changed the original language eliminating weekday commuter rail service after 9 p.m. to a less severe -- and more vague -- adjustment of schedules "to optimize span of service."

Another, offered by Tibbits-Nutt and approved unanimously, requires the FMCB to determine by March 15, 2021 if it needs to expand service in the final months of fiscal 2021 to respond to growing demand.

The third and final amendment bars the board or whatever entity succeeds it when its authority expires next year from increasing bus and rapid transit fares before service hours and ridership numbers return to pre-pandemic levels.

MBTA leaders had not planned on proposing fare increases as part of the FY22 budget process, but the amendment from Lang more forcefully blocks that route. Kornegay and Sullivan voted against it, voicing concerns with the dynamic of setting orders for the body that follows the FMCB.

Lang, who serves as president of the UNITE Here Local 26 hotel and food service union, said he agreed with much of the public feedback that the T should avoid cuts and reduce or even eliminate fares.

He took aim at the Legislature, remarking that he was "somewhat amused" to hear opposition to proposed cuts from state lawmakers even though the FMCB itself is "not a funding source."

"I'm amused because, I think to myself, well, if that's really your opinion, why are you telling us?" Lang said. "Why aren't you organizing your colleagues up at Beacon Hill to do something about this and come up with a sustainable fiscal plan so we don't have to make cuts, so we don't have to raise fares?"

Legislative leaders have made little progress in the past nine months on directing additional long-term funding to the MBTA. The House continues to back a package of transportation-related tax and fee increases, approved in March, that the Senate never took up.

Responding to Lang's concerns later in the meeting, Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said the T typically receives $2 in tax revenue for every $1 it gets from fares.

The cuts are substantial, though MBTA officials scaled back the final package from an earlier proposal to focus on reducing service in several areas rather than outright eliminating it.

That draft called for eliminating bus and subway service after midnight, cutting the Hingham and Hull ferries entirely, and replacing the final five subway stops on the Green Line's E Branch with shuttle buses, none of which made it into the board-approved plan.

It also proposed ending all weekend commuter rail service, rather than cutting it on seven out of 12 lines as the final plan does.

Layoffs are still on the table, but Poftak did not offer any specific estimates on workforce impacts, saying officials are in "productive discussions" with labor leaders.

At the moment, MBTA officials are not sure how much money the agency will save under the updated plan and expect to have an estimate in late January or early February.

Poftak clarified during the briefing, though, that he expects the spending reduction to be less than the original plan proposed in November, which would have carried a net savings -- once accounting for the decline in ridership caused by less service -- of up to $95 million.

Like transit agencies around the country, the MBTA faces a major shortfall because fare revenue has evaporated during the pandemic. Previous estimates forecast a deficit of more than $580 million in fiscal year 2022.

Service cuts are just one component of a larger plan to grapple with that shortfall, alongside reallocating federal funding and trimming capital spending.

"I do not see what the T is proposing as anywhere close to a doomsday scenario," Pollack said. "This is a service adjustment, which is providing more than adequate service for the number of riders we have and expect to have for the remainder of the current fiscal year."

The MBTA Advisory Board, an independent organization representing the interests of cities and towns in the T's coverage area, said it was happy to see the agency partially embrace service reductions over eliminations in its final plan.

Advisory Board Executive Director Brian Kane warned that the current COVID budget crisis is another "symptom of the MBTA's structural deficit," also turning a spotlight toward Beacon Hill.

"Over the last 20 years fixes such as studies, panels, commissions, committees, governance tweaks, merging agencies, financial engineering, and many other short-term remedies have been tried to solve the symptoms of this structural deficit," Kane said in a statement. "Just as with COVID-19, treating symptoms alone does not save the patient. To stop the revolving door of regular MBTA budget crises that we all find ourselves in, the MBTA's broken financial structure must be treated and cured - without doing this, nothing has been accomplished."