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MBTA trimming bus service amid driver shortage

MBTA bus driver Joao Goncalves transports passengers from Chelsea over the Tobin Bridge en route to Haymarket. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
MBTA bus driver Joao Goncalves transports passengers from Chelsea over the Tobin Bridge en route to Haymarket. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

About 5% of currently scheduled MBTA bus trips will be eliminated when a new winter schedule takes effect this month, part of the agency's response to what its leaders described as a "national workforce shortage in the ranks of bus and train operators."

The new route schedule that begins Dec. 19 will drop about one in every 20 bus trips, the T announced. Officials said the changes, detailed on a line-by-line basis on the MBTA's website, will allow the agency "to better match its scheduled service and reliability with service actually being delivered."

Service will decrease on many bus routes. The Route 19 between Kenmore and Fields Corner, the Route 38 between West Roxbury and Forest Hills, and the Silver Line 1 will run with increased frequency.

Similar cuts will not hit the subway side of the T. Service will remain the same as the current schedule on the Red, Orange, Blue and Green Lines, and the Mattapan Line's frequency will be increased.

Announcing the plan, MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak stressed the changes "are not a cost-control measure."

"Like other transit systems across the country, the MBTA is experiencing significant challenges in attracting the workforce needed to meet demands for service," Poftak said in a statement. "The MBTA is budgeted for a full level of service, and ready to add back services when we have hired and trained new bus and train operators. We have teams at the MBTA working to streamline the hiring process and attract new employees, and I encourage all prospective candidates to visit mbta.com/apply to learn more about the many benefits that come with a career at the T."

Officials said the T has hundreds of positions open, and the agency has publicized that it is hiring for more than 300 bus operator jobs. A spokesperson said the MBTA would need to bring on 80 to 100 additional full-time operators to meet the needs of current schedules.

Labor challenges have been a persistent theme for months at the 6,500-worker agency. In April, officials said a shrinking workforce complicated the effort to reverse pandemic-era service cuts, and last month, Poftak said the T was "struggling to attract the workforce that we wish to have."

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