MBTA working to prevent overcrowding in as state continues to reopen

BOSTON — One positive aspect from the pandemic so far is that, with fewer riders, the MBTA has made strides in repairs to the Blue Line.

That said, there are multiple issues the MBTA is facing as the state slowly trudges through its phased reopening.

“As we turn to reopening we know that public transportation will play an important role in making sure people can get where they need to go,” Governor Charlie Baker said during a news conference at Maverick Station in East Boston.

The T is currently operating at 60% capacity, according to General Manager Steve Poftak.

“Right now, what we’re attempting to do is provide as much supply as possible and spread out the demand,” said Poftak. “I don’t consider it feasible to do particularly on the rail system.”

While it reduced service during the pandemic, the T has continued to operate throughout, adding enhanced sanitizing, equipping employees with personal protective equipment, both of which the state said will continue.

Personal responsibility for bus and train riders are critical components as the T looks to add more vehicles to the system with riders required to wear face coverings, and being asked to social distance at platforms, terminals, and on the T.

One of the problems with offering more service at the present time, according to Poftak, is the availability of MBTA workers as 150 of them have fallen ill from the coronavirus and there are 400 out on leave that is related to COVID-19.

Poftak was asked how the system would enforce social distancing measures and crowding, and if additional staff would be brought to ensure social distancing.

“To the extent that we have the availability of that workforce to do it, we will do that," said Poftak. “Our hope is that people will continue where possible to work from home, and also that we are able to communicate with our customers about periods of time where crowding is being experienced.”

MBTA officials are asking riders to stay three feet from each other for social distancing, as opposed to the six feet the governor and health experts have been stressing for months. Poftak said the three-foot rule is based on what other transit systems have done and through guidance from the World Health Organization.

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