MBTA to reduce bus service on many lines and keep current reduced subway service in place this fall
The MBTA announced new bus schedules with reduced service on 49 lines starting Aug. 28.
The T says it's trying, but it's just not getting enough people willing to drive buses. Despite bonuses and recruiting drives, the T says it's currently short some 300 drivers.
Because of ongoing difficulties in hiring new bus operators, approximately 3% of scheduled T bus trips did not occur over the summer months. While the MBTA continues its aggressive hiring campaign, the MBTA is adjusting bus service on some routes beginning August 28, 2022, to better match scheduled service with the actual level of service being delivered.
Separately, the T announced it's going to continue its current reduced weekday service on the Red, Blue and Orange Lines - the latter when it starts running again - because of ongoing "staffing challenges" at its central dispatch center, the ones that the Federal Transit Administration blasted the T for in June.
The T says the increased time between trains on the lines will continue through the fall.
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Take same of the current drivers and dispatchers
that were working on the Orange Line, and have them beef up service levels on the Red Line for the interim, which is already experiencing overcrowding -- and we are still two weeks away from school being in full session.
Hopefully some of the new train operators and dispatchers will be online by then.
The bus situation is tougher -- nobody wants to deal with the abuse from the riders and work the terrible split shifts that new drivers are forced to endure. Overhauling the scheduling of bus drivers would be a good start.
As soon as it was announced
As soon as it was announced bus service would replace the Orange Line I felt this was going to happen. I will admit though that I had no idea low hiring rates of bus drivers would be the cause.
Working for the T used to be a well sought after job. I wonder what changed? How long has the T been doing this split shift stuff for new drivers?
This probably has a lot to do
This probably has a lot to do with it:
> The T is scrambling to recruit new drivers, but those efforts are being sandbagged from a 2016 labor deal that reduced entry-level wages for new bus drivers by 18 percent.
> Under that agreement, new MBTA bus drivers in 2021 earn only $21.13 an hour, and are limited to working only 30 hours per week.
30 hours a week plus you have
30 hours a week plus you have to come back later in the day instead of working a straight shift and you're making less than new drivers did in 2016? That sounds like a recipe for failure. I'm not sure what the MBTA Labor Union was thinking. They should have called the MBTA Administrations bluff and let the system shutdown. I know I'm being a Monday Morning quarterback about this but DAMN: WTF were they thinking?
But the authority can offer a bonus of any amount
Bump that bonus up to a very large amount and you’ll get people banging on the door. Not sure why this is so hard for them to understand.
But then I bet the union would throw their hands up because seniority. Screw everyone, but the existing members seems to be their mindset.
was the signing bonus amount I saw advertised (don't know any of the stipulations however).
The split schedule is ridiculous, 3 hours in the morning, 3 hours in the afternoon evening 5 days a week and then you hit your 30 hour cap?
Signing bonuses don't lead to retention
With a signing bonus you can lock people in for a certain period of time, but if the job wasn't worth taking without the bonus, they won't stay. And good luck getting the money back if they bail during the hold period.
Was a time when the T still had a lottery for jobs (the last lottery was in 2017), as it had for decades. The Union (thought it) could bargain away wages for new hires in return for higher wages for existing members (which sort of made sense in a world where there were more people interested in transit operations than jobs). If you made it through the lottery and through the first few years of having crappy seniority, then you had a good job with benefits.
This was turned completely on its head by a tightening job market, the pandemic, and gig worker and delivery jobs paying higher wages with better working conditions (in the short run, anyway) upended this model and the labor agreement does not provide enough workers. Five years ago, 589 would have been throwing an absolute fit over the out-of-town drivers brought in for the Orange Line shuttles, arguing (correctly) that it would be cheaper to use union bus drivers to fill the gaps. But right now, it just doesn't have enough drivers to fill these slots, even with overtime. And the wages are such crap that it can't hire enough new drivers to fill out the ranks. And the T probably feels like they can't pressure the union because a) they'd probably lose in front of an arbitrator and b) the union has more power by being smaller because it can basically threaten that any sort of work slowdown would quickly hit service.
Something here has to give. But if the T said "we're increasing wages for new hires" the union would probably demand higher wages for existing drivers and maybe some back wage differential for recent hires (I would if I were them). We should pay that! The T's front-line workers do a ton of thankless work in adverse conditions, and while it may not be perfect (dispatching could use some help) they deserve enough money to maybe afford to be able to live in the region.
One other thing: IDK what the T's Orange Line operator workforce is doing right now but the T should have them in a CDL crash course to be cross-trained as bus operators. If the T had 20 extra operators it could avoid as many expensive out-of-state buses during these shutdowns, and given that each charter bus costs about $200,000 per month, using local labor and in-house buses could probably save $100,000 per month (since operators wouldn't need lodging, travel, per diem, gratuity, etc) per bus. Giving a driver a $2 per hour bonus for cross-training as a CDL bus driver would cost the T $4000 per year, so this might pay for itself. I'm sure this isn't happening; it would make way too much sense.
LOL to anyone who believed
Less than a week into the Orange Line shutdown that was going to improve train service and we're already hearing excuses for why service won't improve when (if?) it reopens.
Since they can't hire the necessary staff, they will reduce the required staffing levels via the feedback loop of service cuts, which will drive down ridership, justifying further service cuts.
LOL to anyone who believed
that infrastructure upgrades would improve staffing deficiencies. There will be real improvements to Orange Line operations, particularly the elimination of multiple slow zones. But that doesn't and never did mean that they would magically also have staff to dispatch more trains per hour. The train, once you are on it, will run better, but there will still be too few trains until the staffing issue can be resolved.
Faster Trains = More Frequency
Sure, we are maybe talking a minute or 2 tops, but if you ask a T rider about the difference between an 8 minute wait and a 10 minute wait, they'll say it mean something.
It took a pandemic to reduce ridership this time
You have to remember @Angry Dan, there are people who have no choice but to ride the T. Low wage workers don't have the option to take an Uber or Lyft to work and actually pay rent and buy food for themselves and their families. I'm talking mostly inner city folks although there are some patches of suburbia that house low wage workers and their families.
There are plenty of people...
...that I would not consider "low wage" -- relative to the official poverty line, which is a joke -- and who cannot afford an Uber or Lyft except as an occasional indulgence. Many many people in this category. It's T or walk or ride a bike.
So, "Better Bus" was always an excuse to cut service.
Such a surprise.
They are not instituting that.
I take this at face value. They have budgeted slots that they cannot fill, hence the cuts. Delta isn't cancelling flights this summer to save money. They are doing it because they don't have staff for the flights.
My AA flight this AM was delayed because of staff shortages. Fortunately, it wasn’t canceled.
But the plan was to add two
But the plan was to add two buses where I live!
Better Bus is a Good Plan
Put together by MBTA employees in good faith. However, it means nothing without a management willing to do their job and implement it properly, which includes hiring more drivers. Under Charlie Baker, it's likely to fail because he and his appointees have shown themselves to be completely incapable or unwilling to submit a budget necessary to run the MBTA.
And yes, the democratic supermajority on Beacon Hill gets plenty of blame as they ultimately control the purse strings and could've performed oversight instead of sticking their thumbs up their butts while they knew a governor who hates public transportation was responsible for leading the MBTA
This is unrelated to that
This announcement continues to use the current bus routes (except for some minor details around individual stops) so it has nothing to do with the Better Bus Project.
Meanwhile, there's a discrimination lawsuit
Civil rights group alleges Orange Line service changes illegal
So, the MBTA had the choice between running afoul of one federal agency if they didn't quickly close the line for 30 days or running afoul of a different federal agency if they quickly closed the line.
Where's Wil to talk about the sanity of government.
The MBTA chose this
Baker has said many time that the T made the decision to shut down for 30 days on their own, not the FTA. If you believe Baker isn’t lying, then this shutdown is optional
That's nice, Charlie
The entire effing mess is all Baker's fault - in fact, it is his legacy and the realization of decades of work toward his dream of destroying public transportation in Massachusetts.
Now, now, now
He just built on the work, or specifically lack of work, on the part of the Patrick administration, and the Romney administration, and the Cellucci administration, and the Weld administration. If we add in Jane Swift's 2 year as "Acting," that the work of 6 governors going in to messing things up. Don't get me wrong, Baker owns this, but it's not like Patrick wasn't told about this 3 years into his 8 in the corner office. He just left it for Baker, who almost got away with leaving it to his successor.
And don’t forget the Mass legislature
It takes two [branches of government] to tango.
D’Allessandro mentioned that in his report to Patrick. If only something was done then.
By the way, wasn’t in the Great and General Court that passed the legislation implementing forward funding.
Baker created it
He needs to un create it.
Why wasn't it on Patrick, when told back in 2009 about how funding deficiencies were causing a major neglect of core infrastructure maintenance, to do something about it? His party controlled Beacon Hill, yet it wasn't until Baker came in that the billions started to flow to do something about the maintenance backlog. Patrick skated on a lot of messes he created or festered, while Baker at least has tried to get things done.
At the end of the day, everyone wants the system maintained, but the same people bellyache when subway lines are shut down to do it. There are people who are griping about how low the starting wages are for T employees, yet they also want the T to be free, thus cutting out a third of T revenue. Can't have it both days.
Patrick has not been governor for eight years. (Also, he at least tried some stuff like increasing the gas tax and pegging it to inflation to help fund the MBTA, but got rejected by Beacon Hill... which is definitely the democrats fault)
However, Charlie Baker and his appointees have shown themselves to be abject failures because they are incapable or unwilling to submit a budget necessary to run the MBTA, hiding how bad the maintenance problems have become. They have also routinely cut service and increased fares, all leading us to this utter clusterf*ck.
And as I said above: yes, the democratic supermajority on Beacon Hill gets plenty of blame as they ultimately control the purse strings and could've performed oversight instead of sticking their thumbs up their butts while they knew a governor who hates public transportation was responsible for leading the MBTA. If I had my druthers Mariano, Spilka and all their enabling toadies would be voted out of office.
People are "belllyaching" because shutting down the T in a panic with 2 weeks notice is incredibly harmful and just shows how poorly managed the MBTA has been by Charlie Baker.
People are "griping" about low starting wages and still wanting the T to be free because they want better funding mechanisms not dependent on user fees. They think the T is supposed to be a public good that benefits drivers and riders all across the state, they think ridership should be encouraged, not penalized.
Any other questions?
Also unlike Baker
Patrick was smart enough not to keep trains running through a blizzard.
keep glossing over Forward Funding.
It was Bakers plan that landed the MBTA in this pit of neglect. Baker is uniquely placed to undo his financial magic and make for the planned neglect that Baker authored.
I won't gloss over it
I will again note that the group set out to review the state of the T questioned funding through dedicated sales tax 13 years ago. That's 5 years of Patrick, 8 years of Baker, and 13 years of Democrats controlling the General Court. The inertia comes from the legislative branch.
You are not dealing with the financial magic
All politicians are lazy. But Baker made the funding formula. I would submit he even had a decent reason since the Feds were about to bail on the big dig. I am saying that since it was his financial magic that started this, he should present a plan to bail it out. He hasn't. I agree that raising the gas tax was a good idea, but Deval kinda knew that no one would go for it. So that way he can reasonably say "i tried". Baker hasn't done anything but look for someone else to blame.
The legislature made the funding formula, as it's part of state law.
baker designed it
He needs to un design it.
Patrick essentially kicked the can. Baker was forced after the winter of 2015 to come up with funding for the maintenance backlog, and from 2015 to 2019, they did a good job. Then they didn't, so now the FTA is making them get back into maintenance.
As for the bellyaching, I was actually talking about all the closures before this.
And again, for all the talk of "freeing the T," I have yet to see a concrete plan to cover the inevitable budget shortfall. Meanwhile, I hear people griping about spending too much yet also concerned about how little money goes into the system. Classic America.
Facts are stubborn things
I'm not saying Patrick covered himself in glory, but you can't dispute that he attempted to improve the funding situation.
It's hilarious that you think "Baker did a good job from 2015-2019" when what happened was nothing else major broke down but problems were obviously mounting. The Baker administration was not up front about the scope of the problem while miserably understaffing the T, and now all those chickens have come home to roost. I suppose if the cascading failures had waited another 6 months to really kick in, you'd be saying Baker did a great job and it's Governor Healey's fault.
Let's all hope Healey has a better plan and some clout with the opaque and self-serving Beacon Hill leadership.
Again, look at my time period
I cannot excuse the T/MassDOT/Baker for slowing down on maintenance, but the reality is, they were working on the backlog during that time. As for Patrick, he increased the sales tax amount going to the T, but that was part of a larger sales tax hike. He left Baker with a T that didn't have a means to deal with heavy snow. Baker is leaving to whoever comes after him a T that doesn't have the staff to run the system as intended.
In all honesty, the problem isn't with any governor. Report after report details a culture at the T where safety and maintenance come a distant second to just about anything. Remember the Red Line car that took off from Braintree without a driver? The driver in question was only using a short cut that every driver knew that was a way to deal with a faulty signal. No politician could do much about that.
So, be happy with reduced subway service, as that is in fact resolving a safety issue. As for the buses, compared to where things were 10 years ago, when trips were cancelled routinely due to short staffing but the T never admitted it, at least they are being realistic about expectations.
I would not assume that he
I would not assume that he hasn't gotten away with it yet. Yes, loads of ordinary people in Massachusetts may be furious, but their opinion has only ever mattered to him inasmuch as they had the power to fire him from his job. If the only possible consequence is that he can't be Governor anymore, and he's already made up his mind to do something else, who cares.
As for what he's doing next? I'd guess lobbying, possibly for a large healthcare-preventing organization (I believe the term is "insurance company"), or a gray-market taxi company such as Über.
"If you believe Baker"
I've heard enough from Poftak to conclude that the FTA made this happen.
I want Baker and Poftak
to repeat those "it was all our idea, and we suggested it to the Feds!" statements _under oath_.
Everyone sing along!
It's a cluster ... of [email protected]%k (say what?)
It's a cluster! Ooh ooh ooh.
It's a cluster ... of [email protected]%k (say what?)
It's a cluster! Ooh ooh ooh.
This city is a [email protected]%k oh baby baby
I wanna ride with you!
The roads are such a [email protected]%k oh baby baby
Only the bikes can move!