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After crowds on the Blue Line, MBTA to increase service

The transit agency said it will add trains back to the subway line

After a crowded morning on the Blue Line, the MBTA said it will increase service on the line in time for the Wednesday morning commute, and boost Green Line service to the Longwood medical area to ensure employees and others have access to some of the city’s busiest hospitals, the agency announced.

“Specifically, the MBTA will be adding Blue Line service in the morning, additional Green Line capacity on the E Branch, and additional service on certain key bus routes,” the agency said in a statement Tuesday night.

The adjusted schedule came hours after the MBTA reduced service levels due to the coronavirus crisis, which led to crowded conditions on some lines.

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At the start of service Wednesday, trains on the Blue line will be increased “to reflect ridership demand,” the statement said.

On the Red Line between Alewife and JFK/UMass Stations, trains continue to be expected to arrive approximately every seven minutes, and service on the Ashmont and Braintree branches will run approximately every fourteen minutes, the agency said.

In response to heavy volume on the Green Line, the E branch will have more frequent service between the Prudential and Heath Street stations, the statement said.

" Green Line B, C, and D branch trolleys will continue to run every seven to thirteen minutes with more frequent service on the trunk," the statement said.

MBTA buses will continue to operate on a Saturday schedule, but service will be added Wednesday during peak demand on certain routes, the agency said

A comprehensive list of schedule changes can be found at mbta.com/coronavirus.

Officials hope the changes ease some of the crowded conditions passengers experienced on Tuesday, the first day of reduce service due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Early-morning Blue Line passengers from Revere and East Boston reported the types of crowded conditions that Americans have been repeatedly advised to avoid in recent days.

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While T ridership fell off fast as the virus spread last week, the Blue Line had seen a much smaller drop in ridership than the rest of the subway system. Transit officials said Tuesday that they would add another Blue Line train to morning service on Wednesday after pictures circulated on social media showing cramped, standing-room-only quarters.

“Because the first two trains this morning experienced heavy passenger volume, Blue Line supervisors early tomorrow morning will have a train staged at Wonderland to put into service if necessary,” MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said earlier Tuesday.

On Monday, the T announced it would reduce frequencies on subways, commuter rail, and most buses with ridership dropping considerably as more people stayed home to stop the spread of the virus. The agency said it was seeking to balance the lower demand with concerns about crowding and safety while still ensuring essential workers like nurses and doctors could still get around the city.

Indeed, subway station entries were down 48 percent by the end of last week compared to a more normal week. Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, whose administration does not operate the state-run MBTA, on Monday said ridership was likely to continue decreasing, justifying reduced levels of service.

But that differed from line to line; the Blue Line, which serves a higher rate of low-income riders than the rest of the subway, only saw a 28 percent reduction. With trains on the line running only every 9 to 13 minutes on Tuesday, compared to a more typical five minutes, there were still heavy passenger loads on the earliest trips of the day.

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“When they announced they were going to do a reduction in services, my first response was, ‘isn’t this going to create more crowding on the train?’” said Lydia Edwards, East Boston’s city councilor. “Certainly, maintaining a normal capacity and not reducing it is what we have to do right now.”

Edwards suggested that the Blue Line may differ from other MBTA lines because the harbor makes it difficult to find other ways to work, and because riders across the North Shore rely on it as an alternative to more expensive commuter rail. Early-morning workers that were crowded on Tuesday may also be service workers with little option to stay home, she said.

“What I’m worried about is that many people feel the need to choose between safety and paying rent or paying for food,” she said. “If they could work from home they would.”

Pesaturo, the T spokesman, added that trips after the first hour on the Blue Line were less crowded.


Adam Vaccaro can be reached at adam.vaccaro@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamtvaccaro.