Cuts in commuter rail service beginning next week could be more than an inconvenience, riders say

Cuts in commuter rail service beginning next week could be more than an inconvenience, riders say

Plans to temporarily cut the number of weekday commuter rail trains by more than half beginning Monday will not only inconvenience many customers but could also increase coronavirus infections if trains are more crowded, some riders said.

The MBTA and Keolis Commuter Services announced Friday that, due to low employee availability because of COVID-19 absences, the commuter rail will operate a reduced service schedule, cutting the number of daily trains from 541 to 246, until at least at least Dec. 27.

“That will give me only two times in the morning as options, whereas now I have five or six,” George Olson, a pharmaceutical company project manager, said at South Station Friday as he waited for his train home to Mansfield. “I also think it’s going to put passengers at risk (of infection). Right now, there’s nobody within two rows of me. I’m thinking the trains are going to be too crowded.”

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said overcrowding should not be a problem because current ridership on commuter rail trains is only about 10% of what it was prior to the pandemic. Also, ridership during the holiday weeks in December is historically low.

The reduced service schedule, which will affect only weekday service, is available at MBTA.com and was in major stations Friday. The schedule will not change weekend scheduled trips.

“Saving resources now by reducing underutilized, nonessential services will help ensure the MBTA has the resources to bring back service in a sustainable and prudent manner in response to ridership demands after the pandemic has faded,” Pesaturo added.

Since March, Keolis and the MBTA have introduced new technologies like electrostatic sprayers to help sanitize passenger areas quickly and thoroughly. Added attention is given to touched surfaces, employee areas and air filtration systems. All coach cars on every train also remain open so people can spread out and maintain social distance.

  • Cuts in commuter rail service beginning next week could be more than an inconvenience, riders say

    WEYMOUTH, MA. – DECEMBER 11: The Greenbush commuter rail with very few passengers stops at the East Weymouth MBTA station on December 11, 2020 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/ MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

  • WEYMOUTH, MA. – DECEMBER 11: The Greenbush commuter rail with very few passengers stops at the East Weymouth MBTA station on December 11, 2020 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/ MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

  • BOSTON, MA: December 11, 2020: George Olson awaits his train in a quiet South Station in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

  • BOSTON, MA: December 11, 2020: A quiet South Station in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

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