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Commuter rail, ferries, could face large cuts next year

CommonWealth Magazine reports on MBTA planning for service in an era when ridership remains way down due to Covid-19. Bus routes serving low-income communities, where demand has not collapsed, might be protected from cuts.



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The CDC just issued a warning that the virus spreads through enclosed spaces that are poorly ventilated. What is more unsafe than being in a steel box with passengers and employees who refuse to wear masks. If the MBTA was a private company their refusal to enforce mask rules would result in the Governor ordering the MBTA to shut down until they enforce the same safety standards that private companies have to follow.


Show us real world examples of public transportation leading to big outbreaks. I doubt that you can.


Look at the outbreak numbers for "downtown" city centers and the commuter corridors that serve them - rates, that is, not gross numbers. You'll see how there was spread from commuters.
Someplace like NYC, and especially early in the outbreak... I was reading a lot of news/reports from there because of friends & family where I grew up.

Rapid transit had mixed concerns. Crowding is a huge problem. On the flip side, there is a lot of air circulation - train stops every minute or two, there's three or four doors on each side of each car, air movement with people movement. Clusters of people moving together or past each other getting in/out. Also direct connections between major terminals (bad waiting room & stairway spaces), high-density workplaces, and things like crowded skyscraper elevators.

NJ suburbs on commuter rail lines showed hotspots. Typically fewer doors and less-frequent stops than rapid transit, so less air circulation - but typically less crowded.

NJ suburbs on bus corridors (interstate commuter coaches) - some really bad community numbers, worse than the places on commuter rail. Those buses - people on together for a long time, denser crowding than commuter rail, typically one door per coach - so poor air circulation and everyone walking past everyone else to get to/from that one door.



Eating in a restaurant is way more dangerous because you have to take off your mask.


Yep. Let's seize the day and kill it before it grows again!

Astoundingly short-sighted.


Public transportation is such a big part of the housing crisis, environmental destruction, and equality. Cutting it hurts almost every aspect of society.

We all know once it's gone, it takes decades and billions of dollars to get it restored in even a small capacity. The Boston area has hundreds of miles of rail buried under 2" of asphalt from the last time there was major cutbacks to public transportation on the basis that it "wasn't needed".

The pandemic has allowed politicians (Baker) to make the wet dream changes they've always wanted but knew would never pass. Now they have an excuse.


From the people who demand that some public services 'pay for themselves' but have no problem with seemingly limitless military and police budgets. Why it's almost like some public goods need to be publicly funded.


By cutting service to areas with many >1-car households, the T is essentially restricting those without a car from moving there. As gentrification continues, low- and middle-income Boston residents need as many housing options outside of the city as possible. The T's decision is a major step backwards - it's a prime example of narrowly-targeted thinking, in the midst of an era of thinking systematically.

The 52 is an example of this: it's an "outer ring" type of bus serving the perimeter of the T's service area. In the pre-COVID days, one could hypothetically get from Walpole to Waltham using public transit, albeit only on weekdays: 34E to 52 at/near Dedham Mall, then to 70 in Watertown. That's no longer possible today with the severely curtailed schedule, and moving forward, the 52 is on the chopping block (and was specifically highlighted in the "low ridership, low transit-critical population" section at yesterday's FMCB meeting).

Sure, it can be more efficient for the T to connect everyone only to Downtown Boston, but apparently no one is concerned about making sure that towns outside Boston are connected to each other - you know, to ensure that low-income people have access to low-transit areas in an attempt to break down the historical barriers of suburbs, etc...


I'm all for supporting and expanding transit. But the existing commuter rail service is not a viable option for no-car households, unless you never go anywhere besides work and have a very consistent work schedule.

If you want to help the most people who need transit, running empty 52s all day is not the way to do it.

My bigger issue with Waltham service is the recent change that ended through trips from Central to North Waltham on the 70A. Transferring to the 61 sucks, since the 61 and 70 are both rather infrequent. I don't understand what this was supposed to accomplish, since it didn't save any money or make service faster or more reliable for anyone.

Plenty of people live up there, and some of the Waltham office parks are on the 61 (though others are not reachable by MBTA at all, another complaint of mine). This change will make sure anyone who has an alternative stops riding the bus.

I haven’t stepped foot on a piece of mbta since March and have no desire to ever again


Remember this next time you are stuck in bumper to bumper traffic.


I ride a bike to and from work


But I'm still smart enough to know a comprehensive, reliable public transportation system is in my best interests. As a cyclist, the fewer people who need to drive, the safer I am.

Also, the Pandemic will be over in a year. The housing crisis will not be.


Suburban traffic is getting worse as the fall is progressing.

No one from Hingham is getting on the commuter rail by the way if they have been taking the boat. A few phone calls made and full boat service will be restored post haste. Mark my words.

I have never seen the West Hingham Greenbush lot full and Nantasket Junction could be used for drag racing so few people use it. Meanwhile, pre-pandemic boats were full. They will be back.


I consider myself a fairly hard-core cyclist, but there are plenty of winter days when I won't get on a bike, because of either frigid cold, snow, or dangerous ice. That's when I start buying 7-day T passes.


Do you wear studded spandexes and a neck collar?

I have been thinking about this lately and I think I might try to winterize my bike I do not miss the MBTA it’s awful service the stations are disgusting and it’s too expensive. And God for bid you have to ask a question to any of the employees. So I choose to bike rain or shine. I know not everyone has that option and I feel bad for anyone who has to rely on the MBTA


I've ridden through every both winter for the past 20 years. I do (did) sometimes take the T when it's really gross out but I don't have that good option since they eliminated the express busses.

Riding in Boston when it's cold isn't bad. A good pair of gloves is the most important part. You'll warm up when moving even with a thin jacket.

The worst part is when they don't plow the paths. Once the snow gets compacted, the ice can stick around for weeks. At that point I switch from the paths to the side streets.


and walking paths, I find cycling in the road can often be safer than walking on the sidewalk in the winter.

But otherwise, I agree. Gloves and warm socks are big, something for your face can be nice if it's windy/rainy, and you'll need lights to make sure that drivers see you even during the day, but it's really not worse than walking outside in the winter (which should be easy for any self-respecting Bostonian who's healthy enough to do so).


Protected bike lanes are the worst after a snow storm. The sidewalks and general lanes will be clear and dry the next day, but a protected bike lane is an ice rink for WEEKS.

The problem is they’re down-slope of a snow pile that forms in the buffer strip. So every night the melt water refreezes.

All the careful snow removal in the world won’t overcome this fatal design flaw.

so that I can resume riding the MBTA again.


Supply (frequency) will go back up once demand (ridership) does.

Cutting off-peak trips on lines/system which primarily shutting suburban professionals into South and North station seems appropriate. Even prior to COVID, if I left the office mid-day to head home to Roslindale on the Needham line, the train was empty.

The rat-race that was isn't coming back next year.

On a side note. How bad would South Station be this winter if COVID never hit. I hope they're using this time to accelerate the construction of the new tower.

Hence the cuts. I do hope they have contingencies for increases in ridership.

But of course I have to ask about the sanity of "freeing the T" which was all the rage a year ago. Are the plans what the T would look like without the revenue the fares bring in?


As I recall, part of the "free the T" argument was that the cost of maintaining fare gates, ticketing machines, etc to collect the fares was expensive enough that the "profit" from fares was actually pretty low. If the number of riders is dropping, that revenue is falling, but you still have the costs of maintaining those setups. Personally, I'd love to see a trial for temporarily disabling those systems and checking how much you save in maintenance etc (but you'd need to compare it to the economic benefit given to the region overall rather than just the direct dollars in via fares, which no one ever wants to do for public transit for some reason).

The T is in a fiscal crisis due to plunging revenue, stemming from less fares being paid.

But heck, let’s be left wing versions of libertarians and see how well things function when we reduce the charges levied to $0.


I haven't seen any updates lately...have the people been heard this time?

Two days ago, Poftak released a video. Nothing concrete, but giving the basis of what they are looking at. I also saw something on the TV news, but that same kind of "things aren't looking good" reporting.

I'm primarily concerned about local buses. The original proposal makes it possible to be stranded at 7pm, and have to call either Uber , Lyft, a cab or an acquaintance to pick you up.

I mean the subway, CR and ferry are big cuts too, but the local bus one is potentially disastrous.

I got a feeling that we may end up kissing the remaining Haymarket Express buses (426, 450 and their variants) goodbye, too.

Oh, and "nothing we will do will compromise the safety of our riders"...but stranding them at high crime/COVID stations with no bus to get home is the exact OPPOSITE of this.

Actually, it appears the video told me absolutely nothing but political babble. In other words, there is no update at the time. I'm sure most people want to kow the exact details, but this video tells us ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.