The MBTA is about to unveil the highly anticipated overhaul of its bus network, which it has been working on for three years. The agency plans to add new bus routes and increase the amount of service by 25% on weekdays and 70% on weekends.
As Stephen Poftak, MBTA’s chief executive, told the agency’s board this week, “Our bus system is an accumulation of routes dating back decades… This region has seen dynamic change. As someone who grew up here, I’m always amazed when I go to a variety of different places that are now either shelters or employment centers that weren’t even a while ago. ten years, so we need a bus service that changes with it.
“We will increase the number of people who now have access to high-frequency service by the hundreds of thousands,” Poftak said, adding that high-frequency service is defined as one bus at least every 15 minutes throughout the service day. .
The MBTA will release its proposal and map on May 16, then hold a series of public hearings before the new plan is made official.
According to MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo, the implementation of the overhaul will occur in phases over five years beginning in the spring of 2023.
“The implementation schedule will depend on new network interdependencies, operator availability, transit priority and other operational requirements,” he said.
The MBTA is concerned about completing this overhaul as it faces an ongoing shortage of bus drivers. Poftak said progress has been made in hiring and training, but more than 200 new drivers are still needed to provide service as planned.
Ridership continued to rise after a dip in early January that the agency attributed to passenger hesitation during the omicron-fueled surge in COVID-19. The bus system averages 70% of the ridership it had in 2019, with subways at 56% and commuter rail around 40% of its pre-pandemic ridership.
Although ridership may increase, there are concerns that not enough passengers will return to MBTA services to avoid serious fiscal problems beyond 2023, with federal pandemic relief aid set to run out in June. 2023 at the end of the fiscal year.