T riders, be warned.
After months of slowdowns, shutdowns, and nearly unprecedented federal intervention, the MBTA said on Wednesday that summer service cuts on the Red, Blue, and Orange Lines are being extended into the fall. The transit agency also said Green Line service will be reduced and bus service will be trimmed further starting Aug. 28.
The moves mean T riders will have to endure more infrequent trains and buses just as students are starting classes and many workers are considering, or being required to make, a post-Labor Day return to downtown offices.
Fewer trains have been running on Red, Blue, and Orange Line tracks since June 20, when the T reduced weekday service by more than 20 percent for the duration of the summer. It changed the number of trains to Saturday levels on the three lines after the Federal Transit Administration found the T’s operations control center was dangerously understaffed.
The Orange Line, which was shut down for track repairs on Friday, is set to reopen on Sept. 19. On its website, the T said Orange Line service will be increased on Saturdays and reduced on Sundays this fall.
The T cut bus service by about 3 percent in December due to a driver shortage and announced Wednesday more cuts for the fall. The T said 43 bus routes will operate with less frequency. Nine bus lines will see changes to their routes, and more than 30 routes will see departure time changes. The T said two routes will see more frequent service.
“Because of changes in ridership during the pandemic, the MBTA suspended some low-ridership routes and reallocated service to transit critical communities,” the T said on its website. “This fall, we’ll continue to evaluate how to best allocate service to support riders and their transportation needs.”
At a news conference Wednesday, General Manager Steve Poftak declined to comment on the bus cuts, which had not yet been announced. He said the subway cuts will continue to affect the Red, Blue, and Orange Lines, not the Green Line, seeming to contradict information later provided on the agency’s website.
The website also said that the Red Line will terminate at Davis station on weekdays and Park Street station on weekends starting on Oct. 30 to accommodate track work at Alewife station.
Late Wednesday night, that Red Line information was no longer visible on the T’s “Fall 2022 Service Changes” page.
MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo did not respond to multiple requests for comment and further information.
In a news release, the MBTA blamed the new bus service cuts on hiring challenges and cited recent efforts to recruit and retain drivers.
Advocates for transit riders called the new and continued cuts unacceptable.
“Unless you have stood on a bus corner in a blizzard, you do not understand what it means to wait an extra 20 minutes for a bus,” said Stacy Thompson, executive director of LivableStreets Alliance. “Especially if you’re doing that because you are cleaning an office building for someone else who has a car, preparing food for someone else who has a car; you are losing so much of your own life to keep the economy running. It’s insulting and it’s inhumane.”
As part of its ongoing safety inspection of the T spurred by a series of terrifying incidents, the FTA found earlier this year that some train dispatchers were working 20-hour shifts and directed the T to staff up. The agency quickly cut subway service with little notice in June.
Ridership slowed after the T reduced subway frequency. T riders told the Globe they are frustrated by having to pay the same fare for worse service, and they splurge on Uber rides or spend more time away from home to be able to get where they’re going on time.
Last month, the T said it has 17 dispatchers and is aiming to hire 15 more. Dispatchers must have MBTA operator experience and must first pass a 10-week training course. The T has said it is only able to train six dispatchers at a time.
The T hasn’t been able to hire and train enough dispatchers to restore service in time for the summer deadline, Poftak indicated. The positions are fully funded and the T is offering $10,000 bonuses for those who take the jobs.
“Until we feel we have an adequate level of staffing at the [operations control center], we’re going to keep the service level in place,” he said.
Similar hiring challenges plague bus operations.
In December, the MBTA said it was dropping about 1 in 20 bus trips because it did not have enough drivers to operate the scheduled number of trips. The cuts were meant to match scheduled service with reality so that riders could better prepare for their travel.
But since the service cuts took effect, the T has still not been operating all of its scheduled trips. In an announcement about further reduced bus service beginning on Sunday, the T said it has been dropping about 1 in 30 trips.
Former Massachusetts secretary of transportation Jim Aloisi said the service cuts “diminish the public’s confidence that it’s a system they can rely on.”