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The MBTA Expects To Lose $231 Million Due To Coronavirus

An empty MBTA Green Line train en route to Government Center. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
An empty MBTA Green Line train en route to Government Center. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The coronavirus outbreak is hitting the MBTA hard.

The transit agency expects a whopping $231 million loss in revenue this fiscal year due to the pandemic.

Most of the shortfall comes from lost fare revenue as ridership has plummeted during the public health crisis.

As of April 9, Subway ridership is down 92.7% and bus ridership is down 78% compared to the week of Feb. 24 - Feb. 28, according to MBTA general manager Steve Poftak. Meanwhile, the T's service for people with disabilities — The RIDE — is serving just 18% of its usual ridership, and the commuter rail is serving around 6-8% of its usual riders, Poftak said Monday during the T's Fiscal Management and Control Board meeting.

"Although ridership is down significantly, there are people who need to use the T and they need to use it on a daily basis for some of the important necessities of life. And our health care workforce is using the T to get to and from work," Poftak said. "And it's really a tribute to our workforce that they have continued to come to work, that they continue to move people to the places where they need to go."

The MBTA had a 50% fare loss in March and expects a 95% fare loss in April, May and June — which will result in a total fare revenue loss of about $197 million — according to the T's chief financial officer Mary Ann O'Hara.

"The next few months, we expect ridership levels to level off at low levels, and our fare and own-source revenue will continue to be low," O'Hara said Monday at the MBTA's Fiscal Management and Control Board meeting.

O'Hara said fare revenue went from $58 million a month to $3 million during the coronavirus pandemic.

Fare revenue was expected to make up of third of the MBTA's total revenue in its $2.1 billion budget for this fiscal year.

The expected $231 million revenue loss also includes a $14 million loss in state sales tax revenue and a $17 million loss in "own-source" revenue — from things like advertising and parking.

But the T does expect to get federal relief money to cover the lost revenue. According to O'Hara, the MBTA expect to receive roughly $840 million through the CARES Act.

The Federal Transit Authority is currently developing guidance for transit agencies on how to apply for and receive the funds, according to the MBTA. The T says it's working with MassDOT to secure the funds, and expects to get the funds this fiscal year and next fiscal year.

As of Friday, 70 MBTA employees have tested positive for COVID-19, including one worker who died from the illness, according to Poftak. Most of the infections — 41 — are among bus drivers. Five workers have recovered from the illness.

Infections among the T's workforce have increased despite the agency's stepped up cleaning procedures and other measures to ensure social distancing. The T has also given workers protective gear and is checking employee's temperatures before their shifts.

The MBTA has a total 6,385 employees, including 2,683 who operate passenger vehicles.

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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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