On Monday, March 29, Acting Mayor of Boston Kim Janey allied with transportation activists in calling on MBTA leaders to reverse the cuts they have made to transportation services and to restore full, pre-pandemic service as quickly as possible. The acting mayor also announced a pilot program that will give workers hardest hit by the pandemic easier access to public transportation.
Acting Mayor Janey took part in the rally organized by the Transit is Essential Coalition, which took place that Monday outside the Massachusetts Transportation Building. The rally took place hours before the MBTA and MassDOT boards met for the first time after claiming that they would restore full service to the MBTA with their fiscal 2022 budget.
"Restoring public transportation is essential to our recovery, reopening and renewal as a city,” said Janey according to NBC Boston. “It will make Boston more fair and more equitable."
Cuts were initially made because ridership of trains, buses, and ferries decreased by a large amount with the onset of the pandemic.
In January, some ferry services were reduced, and weekend service was cut completely on seven commuter rail lines. In mid-March, Red, Green, and Orange Line service was cut down by roughly 20 percent, as was non-essential bus service. Essential bus service and Blue Line service was cut down by five percent as well.
The criticism the MBTA has garnered comes from the amount of funding they have received, and the fact that this money has not been used to restore service following cuts. According to the state’s congressional delegation, this more than $1 billion in federal stimulus funding should not simply be stored away for use if budget issues arise in the future while cuts are currently being made.
“We count on essential workers to get us through this pandemic, and essential workers count on public transportation,” said Acting Mayor Janey, according to CBS Boston. “MBTA service cuts shortchange the needs of Boston’s workers and ignore the sacrifices they make each day to keep our city running. Service cuts make buses and trains more crowded, and undermine our efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
That day, the MBTA then voted to restore the COVID-19-induced cuts in their service.
“We are bringing back service as fast as we possibly can on bus and subway [lines] with the goal of getting to 100 percent of pre-COVID service levels,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak according to WCVB.
However, bringing back service is not merely a matter of funding. According to boston.com, the MBTA doesn’t currently have the amount of employees necessary to operate the buses and trains, and they do not have an estimate for when they will have new drivers hired and trained.
Along with demonstrating her support for a transparent restoration of MBTA service, Acting Mayor Janey also announced the Main Streets Free Public Transit Pilot which will aid the workers that have been hit the hardest by the pandemic.
1,000 workers will be eligible to receive free MBTA and Bluebikes passes from March 29 to April 19. The MBTA pass will come in the form of a CharlieCard preloaded with $60, and the Bluebikes pass will be eligible for two months.
Those eligible to sign up immediately for this program are workers in Nubian Square, Three Squares (Jackson, Hyde, and Canary) in Jamaica Plain, Mission Hill, East Boston, and Fields Corner.
In order to sign up, those who are eligible can visit https://www.boston.gov/departments/transportation/main-streets-free-public-transit-pilot, or by texting “free ride” to 866-396-0122.