MBTA ridership hits highest level since pandemic began
Commuter rail and bus do best; subway system is worst
RIDERSHIP ON THE MBTA in March reached its highest level since the pandemic began, with the slow-zone-plagued subway system the laggard among the various modes of travel.
Total ridership reached 68 percent of pre-pandemic levels in March, led by commuter rail (80 percent of pre-pandemic levels), bus (79 percent), and ferry (64 percent). Ridership on the subway system was 59 percent of pre-pandemic levels in March.
Even though ridership is ticking upward, fare revenue hasn’t budged much, remaining fairly stable since October 2022. For the first nine months of the current fiscal year, fare revenue was $276.3 million, down $75.3 million, or 21 percent, from what was forecaste
Part of the problem on the subway is that rides take so long. A fifth of the system is operating under slow zone rules because of defective track. At a meeting of the MBTA board of directors on Thursday, General Manager Phillip Eng said track work still has a long way to go but is showing signs of some progress, with some slow zones being eliminated and others converted to slightly higher speeds – say, 10 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour..
Eng is developing a timeline for when the slow zone problem will be addressed and also awaiting a report from an outside consultant on why the defective track was not identified and addressed earlier. Addressing the slow zones is contingent on getting repair workers to the track, a process that has been slowed by the T’s failure to develop a safety plan for rail work.
The MBTA filed a new safety plan on Monday for right-of-way work after the Federal Transit Administration rejected an earlier version of the plan as inadequate. Eng said last week he didn’t notify the board of the rejection immediately because he saw it as part of the regulatory agency’s back-and-forth work process.Chanda Smart, a member of the T board, criticized Eng for not telling the board immediately about the failure of the right-of-way plan. “The fact that we found out about the FTA directive after the media was unacceptable,” she said.
“I take responsibility for that,” Eng said.