The worker shortage that is roiling businesses across the country is adding another layer of pain to MBTA riders.
The transportation agency announced that the fall bus schedule, which starts Aug. 28, will be taking a hit. Forty-three bus routes will operate at decreased frequency at varying points of the day. The reason — a dearth of drivers.
The new schedule aims to line up trip frequency with the number of available drivers. The T has hired 152 bus operators since January but needs about 300 more, it said in a press release.
This is something that can’t be blamed on T mismanagement or incompetence — things are tough all over.
However, looking at some of the bus routes and the trips being targeted, one wonders if those who did the planning have ever tried to get to work on time by bus.
Many riders on the affected routes will be cooling their heels waiting for a bus between 6:30 and 9:30 am Ditto for the return trip, with buses less frequent between 5 and 7 pm And if you live in South Boston, make sure to pick up a Dunks before you walk to your stop — your commute into downtown Boston, the Back Bay or across the river to Central Square is going to be a trip.
For example, the No. 7 bus wends its way from City Point to Otis Street and Summer Street. It’s a great way to get to the heart of downtown from Southie without transferring from bus to train. The morning commute is OK, but coming home, frequency of trips lessens between 4:30 and 6:30 pm on weekdays.
The No. 9 bus goes from City Point to Copley Square, a boon for South Boston residents who work in the Back Bay area. Good luck after Sunday — trips decrease between 7 and 9 am and between 5 and 7:30 pm on weekdays. The No. 11 travels from City Point to Otis and Chauncy and Summer streets, with a lot of stops in Southie proper, particularly West Broadway. Hope you’re not in a hurry to get home — trips will be less frequent from 5 to 7:30 pm on weekdays.
The No. 47 is a workhorse — it runs from Broadway to Central Square in Cambridge, with stops along Melnea Cass Blvd., at Nubian Square and Ruggles stations — where riders can connect to the subway and/or other buses. That route will make less frequent trips between 7:30 and 9:30 am on weekdays.
Fewer buses means more passengers packed into the ones that do arrive — not the best scenario with the COVID BA.5 omicron variant refusing to let go. Health officials are advising precautions this fall, particularly in crowded situations like public transportation.
All this won’t just affect workers going to and from their jobs — add to this mix elementary, high school and college students trying to get to class on time.
MBTA officials say they’re going hard on a hiring campaign for bus drivers — there’s even a sign-on bonus of up to $4,500. Hopefully more bus operators will bite and routes will be fully staffed again.
Until then, the shift changes coinciding with morning and/or evening commutes could use some tweaking.
We’ve no doubt passengers will make their assessments this fall.