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From bus cuts to train delays, here are the latest problems at the MBTA and WRTA

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from WBUR's daily morning newsletter, WBUR Today. If you like what you read and want it in your inbox, sign up here

TGIF! Here’s something to put a spring in your step: Red Sox tickets, including for Opening Day, went on sale Friday at 10 a.m.

Everyone excited? [Red Sox fans loudly boo.] Ah, well…

To the news:

We usually celebrate Fridays; after all, the work week is almost over for many of us! But for bus riders in the Worcester area, the week is ending on a bit of a down note. The Worcester Regional Transit Authority is indefinitely cutting its Friday bus service by about 10% due to a shortage of drivers that has hampered service for the past year.

  • The details: WRTA will drop 112 one-way trips across eight bus routes on Fridays. You can see all the canceled trips here.
  • Some WRTA leaders have pointed to the state’s Paid Family and Medical Leave Act as a factor contributing to the shortage. In an interview with WBUR’s Wilder Fleming, WRTA spokesperson Jamie Winters said a lot of drivers have simply called out sick. And because federal rules don’t allow bus drivers to work over 60 hours a week, the agency has basically been running out of people who can work a fill-in overtime shift by the time Friday comes around.
  • The bigger issue: They could hire more drivers — but the entire public transit industry is struggling with a bus driver shortage that has forced agencies across the country to cut service, including the MBTA.
  • A closer look at the T: A report this week by the group Livable Streets concluded that the MBTA needs 300 more drivers to meet its current schedule, plus another 440 for its reshaped route map. Despite offering perks like signing bonuses and tuition reimbursement, the T has even fewer bus drivers than it did a year ago, according to The Boston Globe. The Globe also reports the trend is exacerbating racial inequality in Boston.

The bus driver shortage isn’t the T’s only challenge. Officials also announced a slate of weekend subway closures over the next month, beginning Saturday. While the Orange Line will be affected most, the partial shutdowns will also touch the Green and Red Lines, as well as the Haverhill commuter rail later in February.

  • How to get around them: WBUR’s Vanessa Ochavillo has more details on the timing of the diversions, travel alternatives and the MBTA’s explanations for the additional disruptions.
  • What’s next: Jeff Gonneville, the T’s interim general manager, says they aren’t planning any other “major full line shutdowns,” but the partial closures will continue for months. Gonneville said Thursday that he’s starting to work on a 12-month diversion calendar, calling it a difficult puzzle that has to account for this year’s four-month Sumner Tunnel shutdown, the Government Center Garage project and the T’s own staffing challenges.
  • While the weekday commute is mostly spared, that doesn’t mean things are going super great. The MBTA is still running a reduced fleet of Orange Line trains due to an equipment problem with the new cars, resulting in up to 15 minute waits.
  • Speaking of those new cars: The already-delayed timeline for the new Orange and Red Line cars will again be pushed back due a slew of production issues. How long isn’t clear. The latest timeline would deliver the rest of the new Orange Line cars by the end of this year and all the Red Line cars by September 2026. But Gonneville said that CRRC — the Chinese company building the new cars — doesn’t even think it can meet those dates.
  • What’s going on? The Globe has reported things at CRRC’s Springfield plant are a bit of a mess. Additionally, Gonneville on Thursday listed several ways that recent federal trade restrictions on China are hampering CRRC’s business.

Heads up, North End denizens — that’s not an earthquake. But you may feel some underground vibrations Saturday starting at 7 a.m. thanks to “ceiling demolition” work in the Sumner Tunnel.

  • Officials say the noisy work may continue during next weekend’s tunnel closure, too.
  • Reminder: the full 24/7 Sumner Tunnel closure is slated to start in mid-May.

P.S.— Gov. Maura Healey recently proposed a new cabinet-level position for her administration. Do you know what it would focus on? Take our Boston News Quiz and test your knowledge of the local stories we covered this week.

Nik DeCosta-Klipa Twitter Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



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