Hamstrung by a severe worker shortage, the MBTA announced service cuts on Tuesday that will take effect later this month on some bus lines.
This fall, the MBTA has already been canceling about one of every 20 scheduled bus trips because it doesn’t have enough drivers to operate them, the agency said.
Come Dec. 19, three bus routes will operate with more scheduled frequency, 31 with less scheduled frequency, and 40 bus lines will have changes in their scheduled timing. Under the new schedule, service levels will be reduced overall by about three percent, said agency spokesperson Joe Pesaturo.
The bus network will be the hardest hit by the December 19 changes. The cuts will not affect the Red, Orange, Blue, and Green Lines.
Bus lines 19, 38 and SL1 will see increased frequency.
The 66 and 111 buses will see mostly decreased frequency with increased frequency on Sunday mornings and afternoons, respectively. The Mattapan trolley will increase service after 11:30 PM on weekends and decrease during morning and evening weekday peak periods.
Thirty-one bus lines will see decreased service, including the 23 and the 29, which Boston plans to make fare-free starting early next year. Forty bus lines will see their schedules change, including the 28 bus, which is currently operating fare-free under a pilot program by the city of Boston that it plans to continue next year.
A full list of the changes can be found on the MBTA’s website.
MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said the agency has not been able to attract enough workers to meet demands for service.
Weekday bus ridership during the week of Nov. 29 was 64 percent of what it was during the last week in February 2020, according to MBTA data maintained by MassDOT.
“These service changes are not a cost-control measure,” 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.”
The T launched a hiring campaign this fall and attended over 20 online and in-person career fairs across the region, according to a news release. The agency recently created a human resources team dedicated to vehicle operator hiring, especially MBTA bus operators.
Poftak urged prospective candidates to visit the T’s website. The MBTA will hold a virtual public meeting about the service changes on Wednesday evening at 6:00 p.m.
Taylor Dolven can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @taydolven.