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T Service Cuts Take Effect; Riders React to Crowded Trains, Missing Buses

Riders protest the elimination of the MBTA’s Route 55 bus on Sunday, March 14, 2021. Photo courtesy of Boston City Councilor Kenzie Bok.

The bulk of the MBTA's planned service cuts took effect yesterday, and riders and elected officials are rallying to express their frustration with the T for cutting service just as the Commonwealth begins to recover from the pandemic.

On Sunday, the T reduced the number of daily train trips on the Red, Orange, and Green lines by up to 20 percent. On the Blue Line, where ridership has been higher during the pandemic, trips have been reduced by 5 percent.

On the bus system, riders of 22 bus routes will face longer waits between bus trips, and 9 bus routes – including the 55 in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood, the 212 in Quincy, and the 79 through Arlington, will no longer run at all.

Though overall ridership on the T's rapid transit lines remains well below pre-pandemic levels, riders have been making increasing reports of crowded trains and buses in recent weeks, even before the cuts took effect.

On Sunday afternoon, Boston City Councilors Kenzie Bok and Michelle Wu gathered with Fenway residents to protest the T's elimination of the 55 bus route, which will no longer run:

The cuts, which, according to T budget officials, are expected to trim $21 million from the T's budget this year, took effect just three days after President Biden signed the new American Rescue Plan relief package, which is expected to allocate hundreds of millions of dollars in additional relief funding for the T.

At a press conference with Mayor Walsh at City Hall on Monday morning, Rep. Stephen Lynch, who represents the 8th district (South Boston, Quincy, and Brockton) in Washington, celebrated the passage of the new relief bill but also had some stern words for the T's management.

"We are in total opposition to the reduction in services, to the laying off of (MBTA) employees, to the furloughing of employees. The whole idea (with the American Rescue Plan) is to move the country, the state, and cities and towns back to a more normal pattern of life," said Lynch. "And so it is incongruous with our intent – speaking for the delegation – that an agency would take federal support from the taxpayer and then cut services to those same taxpayers.... We're going to have some hard discussions with the MBTA and the governor."

Lynch later elaborated on those comments in response to a follow-up question from a reporter.

"I've talked to my colleagues and they are furious about this (the service cuts)," said Lynch. "I don't think it should be taken lightly that we have a transportation bill that's being debated right now, and if we don't have the cooperation and the partnership that we need with our transportation agencies, what does that do to the prospects of a successful transportation bill with respect to Massachusetts?"

Correction: Due to the editor's error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the 112 bus route in Everett and Chelsea was among the routes eliminated in Sunday's service cuts. That route is still running; the 212 bus route in Quincy had been eliminated.

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