25% More Bus Service, Hiring Drivers, New Green Line Projects – StreetsblogMASS
At the MBTA board meeting on Thursday, transit agency boss Steve Poftak presented a lengthy report from the chief executive that included numerous updates on various aspects of the T’s operations. Here is a recap of the highlights:
The rebound in attendance continues
After increasing steadily through 2021, public transport ridership fell sharply over the winter with a further increase in Covid cases of the Omicron virus variant. But the runners are coming back into the system.
“We have fully recovered from the early January decline that we saw from Omicron,” Poftak said.
Commuter rail network growth has been particularly robust this spring, with ridership now at 54% of pre-pandemic volumes.
The bus system carried almost 70% of its pre-pandemic passenger volume in April, although ridership fell during the week of school holidays (while Green Line ridership has increased since the marathon of Boston).
Two bus routes – Silver Line 3 to Chelsea and 16, which connects Forest Hills to Andrew Square Red Line station, are currently carrying more passengers than in April 2019.
New bus routes to offer more bus services
Poftak also announced that proposed new bus routes from its long-planned bus network revamp, which could reconfigure the T’s bus route map to reflect new travel patterns and bring more services to fast-growing neighborhoods, would begin soliciting public comment next month.
The new proposed route map will be posted on the T’s website on May 16, and on May 19, the T will hold an online virtual meeting to begin collecting public feedback. This virtual hearing will be the first of a dozen outreach events and stakeholder meetings scheduled for the spring and summer.
But the T is not just revamping bus routes: the agency is also committed to adding many more bus services overall.
“We will increase the number of bus services by 25% across the entire network,” Poftak said.
To achieve this goal, the T will hire many more bus drivers, especially after the agency blamed a shortage of drivers for an extensive series of bus service cuts last fall. Poftak shared some encouraging news on that front: A one-day hiring event held earlier this month led to 18 on-site job offers for new drivers, as well as 91 interested candidates that the T will help to obtain commercial driver’s licenses to drive buses. .
The event “enabled us to get a month’s worth of potential hires in just one day,” Poftak said.
Advance notice for future rail line closures
Poftak also updated the board on the various maintenance projects the T is carrying out during its 2-week closure of the Blue Line tunnel, a project that took many riders by surprise when it was announced. for the first time on little notice last month.
As we reported last month, previous Metro closure plans had been discussed at meetings of the T’s more active former governance board, which disbanded last summer. But the current board had not yet been briefed on the T’s construction schedule and associated closures.
That changed today: Poftak shared a schedule of upcoming, planned and ongoing shutdowns and diversions through the end of June. Expect regular weekend closures on parts of the Red Line, another closure on the furthest part of the Blue Line (Wonderland to Orient Heights) next month, and continued service disruptions on the Newburyport/Rockport regional rail line until May.
“That’s really what a $2 billion capital program looks like,” Poftak said. “We really balance the level of disruption with the value of the work, but you really have to disrupt the system in order to do the amount of work you want to do.”
Poftak also promised that it would continue to share the T’s service disruption plans on a quarterly basis going forward.