Two MBTA bus routes back to pre-COVID ridership levels
Free fares have a way of drawing riders to a bus route, but there are other ways to attract passengers as well.
In a presentation to the MBTA board last week, General Manager Steve Poftak said two of the transit authority’s 25 busiest routes are now exceeding their pre-COVID ridership levels. Two others are getting close. By contrast, the three routes that are part of a city of Boston fare-free pilot are doing well but not back to pre-COVID ridership levels yet.
Poftak compared ridership on April 18 this year to April 15, 2019. The biggest rebound was on the Route 16 bus, which runs from Forest Hills in Jamaica Plain through Franklin Park, up Columbia Road to South Bay, and ending at Andrew Station on the Red Line. Its ridership was at 116 percent of its pre-COVID level, the highest in the system.
The other big gainer was the Silver Line 3 bus, which runs from Chelsea to Logan International Airport in East Boston and from there to the Seaport and eventually South Station. Its ridership level was at 109 percent of pre-COVID levels.
The three buses currently operating with no fares are some of the busiest on the system, but they are not back to pre-COVID levels yet. All three routes operate in Roxbury and Dorchester and connect riders to four subway stations at Ruggles, Jackson Square, Mattapan, and Ashmont.
The Route 28 bus was the highest of the three, serving 89 percent of its pre-COVID ridership. The Route 23 bus was at 84 percent and the Route 29 bus was at 67 percent.
MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said ridership on the Route 16 bus has increased because capacity has expanded to meet the demand. He said the number of daily weekday trips of the Route 16 bus has grown from 122 in the fall of 2019 to 184 in spring 2021, an increase of 51 percent.
Pesaturo said the resurgence of the Silver Line 3 bus is harder to explain. Half of the route is in Chelsea, but the rest covers well-served stops between Logan and South Station via the Seaport area.
Poftak indicated the bus routes returning the fastest to normalcy are those where riders don’t have the option of working from home and have relatively few travel options. Conversely, the routes growing the slowest serve riders who have more options on work and travel.
The Route 73 bus, which operates between Harvard Station in Cambridge and Belmont, was at only 39 percent of its pre-COVID ridership. The Route 31 bus, which runs between Forest Hills and Mattapan, was at 45 percent.
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FROM AROUND THE WEB
Gov. Charlie Baker reiterated concerns that giving undocumented immigrants driver’s licenses could lead to them becoming accidentally registered to vote. (MassLive) Republican gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl says passing the bill would be a “mistake” that would reward people who entered the US illegally. (MassLive)
Steven Hoffman, the chair of the Cannabis Control Commission, resigned on April 25 with no public notice. His five-year term would have been up at the end of August. (Boston Globe)
Marblehead’s town meeting is marred by technical problems, an unexpected secret ballot vote, and a unanimous vote that was later contested. (Salem News)
The CEO of Cambridge-based Biogen, Michael Vounatsos, is stepping down in the wake of the troubled rollout of the company’s Alzheimer’s disease drug Aduhelm. (Associated Press)
The Supreme Court is poised to overturn abortion rights in a pending case from Mississippi, according to a draft opinion obtained by Politico. The ruling would overturn nearly 50 years of precedent, and also mark a rare leak from the nation’s highest court. Members of the state’s all-Democratic congressional delegation were quick to denounce leaked word of the ruling. (Boston Herald) A ruling by court to overturn the 1973 Roe decision would not make abortion illegal, but rather would leave its fate up to the states. About half of them are expected to ban abortions, if allowed to, but because of interstate travel for abortion services and use of abortion pills, one recent study estimates legal abortions in the US would decline by only about 14 percent. (New York Times)
The five Democrats running for lieutenant governor participate in a Providers’ Council forum and discuss how to stem job losses in the human services fields. (MassLive)
Joan Vennochi says voters should think twice before sending Dianne Wilkerson back to the state Senate following her federal conviction for corruption, especially because she has yet to fully address the actions of more than a decade ago that sent her to federal prison. (Boston Globe) Last week, the Download reviewed the curious responses Wilkerson has provided to questions in recent profiles when reporters asked about the illegal payments she pled guilty to accepting.
Several central Massachusetts movie theaters have recently closed, raising the question of whether movie theaters are a dying breed. (Telegram & Gazette)
An investigation by the attorney general’s office finds that Danvers High School officials failed to properly respond to several years of bullying and harassment by high school hockey players. (Salem News)
History teachers grapple with how to teach students about the war in Ukraine. (Standard-Times)
Lobstermen prepare for a shortened season after the state extends a yearly fishing closure to protect right whales. (Patriot Ledger)
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Boston violated the free speech rights of a conservative activist when it refused his request to fly a Christian flag outside City Hall. (Associated Press)
Suffolk DA Kevin Hayden said he’s directing $400,000 from the office’s Asset Forfeiture Fund toward a drug diversion program that will target people in the Mass. and Cass area for treatment, not prosecution. (Boston Herald)The SJC hears arguments in a legal challenge to a ballot question that would affect dental insurance. (Gloucester Daily Times)
New Bedford is having trouble recruiting police officers, with low pay and heightened scrutiny cited as among the factors responsible. (New Bedford Light)