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MBTA Adds Trips After Announcing Service Reductions In Response To Coronavirus

MBTA Red Line train. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
MBTA Red Line train. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

The MBTA says it will add some trips to its scaled-back schedule, just a day after it announced service reductions based on lower ridership due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The T says the revisions are based on Tuesday's ridership and "reflect demand at specific times of day, on select rapid transit lines and bus routes."

It's adding service for the Green Line's E Branch, which goes to hospitals in the Longwood Medical Area, and certain bus routes. In the mornings, there will be more Blue Line trains. The T said the changes account for the needs of essential workers, including those who need to get to hospitals, government offices and food distributions centers.

The agency announced Monday that it was reducing service. Starting Tuesday, it said, most bus routes will move to a Saturday schedule and trains will arrive up to 14 minutes apart, depending on the line. Express bus routes will continue to operate on a regular weekday schedule. The T's door-to-door service for those with disabilities, The RIDE, will run at full service. Ferry service, however, has been canceled. (You can see the full schedule changes here.)

“The MBTA plays an important role in slowing the spread of the coronavirus while continuing to provide critical services to medical professionals and other employees in key industries that rely on public transit,” MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said in a statement. “While some of these changes are inconvenient, they maintain a responsible balance between protecting the health and safety of the MBTA workforce and our customers, and our goal of continuing to run safe and reliable service without major disruptions.”

The changes are based on guidance from public health professionals — who recommend people avoid large gatherings — as well as a recent reduction in ridership amid the coronavirus outbreak, the MBTA said. In its announcement, the T said it will "operate at levels that support social distancing."

Service on the commuter rail will also be reduced. Keolis, the company that operates the commuter rail, said while there will be reduced service, it will provide off-peak travel options throughout the day.

“We’re working closely with the MBTA and monitoring closely guidance from state and federal public health officials to ensure we’re staying up-to-date during this very fluid situation," Keolis CEO David Scorey said in a statement. "While we are continuing to provide service at a reduced level, it is critical for people to follow recent state protocols, such as social distancing and very limited gatherings.”

The MBTA recently rolled out plans to clean and disinfect the system more frequently amid concerns about the coronavirus. The changes in service for the transit system will start the same day as the statewide closure of schools and a ban on eating at bars and restaurants, as ordered by Gov. Charlie Baker on Sunday night.

The changes to the MBTA and commuter rail also come after transit agencies in other regions have reduced service, including the Washington, D.C.-area Metro. Other public transit agencies are also considering service changes.

The MBTA says it may implement even more service adjustments moving forward — including increasing service — depending on ridership needs. The agency is especially focused on assessing the transportation needs of hospital workers and those trying to travel to Boston's food distributions centers, sites set up to ensure public school students can still access meals.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said he hopes people won't need to use the T to access the food distribution centers since they have been set up in various neighborhoods.

"In their neighborhoods, it will either be a community center or another venue that they’ll be able to go and pick up their meals," Walsh told WBUR's Radio Boston. "So for example, if you’re going to school in Mattapan and you live in Dorchester, you won’t have to go to Mattapan or to your school to get access to food, it will be in your neighborhood."

Walsh said the T is making the right call in cutting back service, even though it will affect businesses and those who still need to get around.

"If we can limit the amount of coronavirus spread here in Boston and Massachusetts, that’s key," Walsh said.

This article was originally published on March 16, 2020.

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Zeninjor Enwemeka Twitter Reporter
Zeninjor Enwemeka is a reporter who covers business, tech and culture as part of WBUR's Bostonomix team, which focuses on the innovation economy.

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