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MBTA to bank U.S. relief funds; town details Arlington cuts

MBTA bus imageUPDATED, Dec. 28: The new federal coronavirus relief bill includes $14 billion to help transit systems fill huge gaps in fare revenue, a lifeline to agencies planning service cuts because of the financial crisis brought on by the pandemic, but the MBTA plans to bank the money, reports Dec. 28.

Days after joining a nationwide lobbying campaign urging Congress to approve aid for public transit, MBTA officials indicated again they do not plan to use the money to immediately reverse service reductions planned for early 2021. Instead, officials have said they plan to bank new federal aid, using it to restore service when the public-health crisis subsides.

The MBTA has scaled back planned deep reductions in weekend commuter rail service, bus routes and T service announced in November. The MBTA's Fiscal Management and Control Board voted, 3-2, Monday, Dec. 14, to reduce the cuts. Read details by Bruce Mohl in CommonWealth magazine >> Read Arlington-specific details in this Dec. 18 town news release:


The Dec. 14 vote was to make service changes as part of its Forging Ahead initiative. The service changes do not cut as much service as originally proposed November, but still affect many services throughout Arlington and services in nearby communities that residents rely upon.

The presentation of the changes that were voted on by the FMCB can be found on the MBTA’s website, as well as a summary of the public comments that they received

 MBTA bus service in Arlington will be significantly affected by the approved service changes. The following changes are expected to become effective in spring (March/April 2021) or later following other state reviews (i.e. Title VI and MEPA review/approval):

  • Suspend service on Route 79 (Arlington Heights to Alewife Station);
  • Suspend service on Route 80 (Arlington Center to Lechmere Station), contingent upon completion of the Green Line Extension;
  • Consolidate Routes 78 & 84 (Arlmont Village to Harvard Station and Arlmont Village to Alewife Station);
  • Consolidate Routes 62 & 76 (Bedford VA Hospital to Alewife Station and Hanscom Air Force Base to Alewife Station); and
  • The remaining bus routes within Arlington may operate 20-percent less frequency compared to baseline service levels: 67, 77, 87, 95 and 350. 

The following additional changes to services that may affect Arlington residents include:

  • 20-percent reduction in frequency on the Red Line. During peak travel periods, this means that times between trains will increase to 5½ minutes from the current goal of 4½ minutes. This also applies to the Green and Orange lines, while the Blue Line will only have up to a 5% reduction in frequency. These changes may go into effect as early as next March.
  • Weekday service on the Commuter Rail will be reduced and end at 9 p.m. In addition, weekend service will be suspended on lower-ridership lines, which include the Fitchburg Line serving Belmont and the Lowell Line serving West Medford. These changes are expected to become effective starting in January.
  • For the RIDE, some trips will need to be booked 40 minutes from request time instead of the current 30 minutes. In addition, some RIDE trips may become premium trips, though the RIDE service boundaries would not change, and the premium service hours will be adjusted to match commuter-rail hours of operation. These changes are expected to become effective in spring.

The MBTA will continue to run services after midnight and have the same hours of operation for bus and subway/rapid transit, and will maintain the Suburban Subsidy program for services in Bedford, Beverly, Burlington, Lexington and Mission Hill. 

These service changes have been made as a result of public transportation ridership declining sharply due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the MBTA, in 2019 MBTA riders took 1.26 million daily trips. In October 2020, riders took around 330,000 daily trips—or 26% of daily ridership compared to 2019. The MBTA has continued to run service at 2019 levels, even though it does not match current demand. The MBTA notes that most service changes are not intended to be permanent, service will be restored depending on public health guidance and the timing of the Massachusetts post-vaccine re-opening plan. 

See the MBTA’s Forging Ahead page for more information on the service changes. For questions regarding the changes in Arlington, contact Daniel Amstutz, Senior Transportation Planner in Arlington’s Department of Planning & Community Development at 781-316-3093 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Routes proposed in November for elimination 

Routes called 'below baseline level of service possible'
(i.e, service cuts)

79 (Heights to Alewife)

80 (Arlington Center to Lechmere

351 (Bedford Woods Drive to Alewife


Public meetings to discuss these cuts:


Last one was Wednesday, Dec. 2, from 6 to 8 p.m.

  62/76 (Bedford VA Hospital - Alewife Station via Hanscom Airport: service suspended) 

67 (Turkey Hill via Arlington Center

77 (Arlington Heights - Harvard Station

78 (Arlmont Village - Harvard Station

84 (Arlmont Village - Alewife Station: service suspended

87 (Clarendon Hill or Arlington Center - Lechmere Station

350 (North Burlington - Alewife Station

On Dec. 3, the MassINC Polling group released survey results showing deep opposition to cuts.

Read more about the specific Arlington impacts and how to register for upcoming MBTA meetings.

The chart at left provides links to the proposed effects on Arlington bus routes, which would occur next summer, if adopted.

The MBTA says its proposed slate of service cuts would save $142 million by summer 2022.

Before doing so, the public will be able to comment at a series of meetings (see chart).

Note that in a link to expected impacts on specific routes that No. 67 and No. 77 are listed as nonessential without major structural changes. Click here and scroll down to page 8.

More details in Nov. 12 town news release >>

If you missed the Nov. 12 hearing, see feedback links here >>

See more information here >> 

Members of the Select Board acknowledged the proposal's effects on town residents at the end of its Nov. 9 meeting.  

Cambridge Day, Nov. 10, 2020: Cash-strapped MBTA details planned service cuts, would take effect next year 

 This news brief and chart were published Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020, and updated Dec. 28.

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