Could the commuter rail help ease crowding on the MBTA? Officials are giving it a try.


For a restricted time starting Friday, a CharlieCard or CharlieTicket shall be nearly as good as a commuter rail move for passengers between Lynn and Boston.

Related Links

  • Crowding issues as a result of coronavirus could pressure MBTA to get ‘creative’
  • Here’s a take a look at the deliberate phased improve in service for the MBTA

The MBTA introduced Thursday that Zone 1A fares shall be accepted on the Lynn Commuter Rail Station from Friday by means of May 31, as crews end work that has shut down a portion of the Blue Line. That implies that riders can journey between Lynn and North Station for the “same affordable price as a subway fare” in the course of the 10-day interval, in keeping with MBTA basic supervisor Steve Poftak.

The transient pilot program additionally comes amid issues of crowding in the course of the coronavirus outbreak. Though ridership is down considerably throughout the MBTA system, the Blue Line hasn’t seen ridership drop as a lot as different subway strains. And the MBTA isn’t planning to ramp up subway service till the second section of Gov. Charlier Baker’s reopening plan.

Poftak hopes that new commuter rail choice will give some extra area to Blue Line riders, who’ve been pressured to climb aboard shuttle buses to finish downtown journeys from Airport Station for the primary 4 days of the two-week service disruption.

“We’re offering this temporary zone change with the goal of reducing crowding and promoting social distance on buses and the Blue Line during the current service diversion, and we encourage our North Shore riders to consider the Commuter Rail to and from Lynn as a travel option instead,” Poftak stated.

However, throughout a digital assembly of the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board on Thursday, officers recommended that opening up the commuter rail to different transit riders may very well be greater than only a slim pilot program.

Ridership on the MBTA subway system stays 90 p.c decrease than regular, although Poftak stated Thursday that it has slowly begun to rebound. And because the MBTA continues diminished, weekend-level service throughout Phase 1, officers try to make sure that there may be enough area on trains and buses for important staff who depend on the system to soundly get to work. Bus ridership has additionally continued to run a lot greater than subway strains in the course of the disaster.

“Crowding is going to continue to be an issue, and I just want us to be exploring every possible way that we could add additional capacity,” stated Monica Tibbits-Nutt, the FMCB’s vice chair.

That’s the place the commuter rail system might are available in.

The community has seen ridership drop much more than the MBTA’s subway system within the wake of the pandemic. Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack stated Thursday that it seems conventional commuter rail riders are “fairly capable” of working from dwelling and thus more likely to come again extra slowly.

Pollack stated she sees “an immense amount of promise” within the idea of using that extra capability to take the stress off different modes.

She famous that the MBTA is already planning a pilot program this spring to extend service and permit CharlieCards on the Fairmount Line (they’ve equally been planning to ramp up service on the Boston-to-Lynn stretch of the Newburyport/Rockport line as a part of the T’s long-term commuter rail plan). The board additionally authorised a transfer Thursday to permit free transfers from Zone 1A Fairmount Line stations to buses and trains at South Station.

Pollack additionally identified Thursday that the Brockton Area Transit Authority runs a preferred bus service connecting residents to the Red Line at Ashmont Station, however there are additionally three commuter rail stations within the metropolis, which is is without doubt one of the Massachusetts communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

Pollack stated Brockton officers had been involved about crowding on these buses, in addition to the Red Line, because the state reopens. The state had shaped a working group with regional transit authorities “that touch the MBTA commuter rail system to coordinate this capacity issue,” she stated.

At the identical time, Pollack stated it made sense to begin with the Lynn station; a zipper code survey of individuals parking at Wonderland Station, the Blue Line’s northern terminus, discovered that someplace between one among 4 and one among 5 riders had been from Lynn.

“We know that Lynn commuters are using the Blue Line regularly, so this idea of taking on capacity on the commuter rail to take people off more crowded lines … this is the right place to test that idea,” Pollack stated.

FMCB Chair Joseph Aiello even expressed concern that the Lynn pilot was too restricted and wouldn’t produce a consultant pattern of its potential. Aiello recommended making it a two or three week experiment.

“I think having a longer experimental period may give us a better set of data,” he stated, including that it “could be a permanent tactic” to handle crowding issues.

“There’s a lot of promise,” Pollack stated. “I think the Lynn experiment is great.”