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Michelle Wu and transit groups call for federal aid among MBTA staffing crisis

Mayor Michelle Wu and several regional transit advocacy groups are calling on Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to step in and help restore service cuts on the MBTA anticipated to stretch into the fall.

“Wednesday’s announcement by the MBTA that it would sustain and deepen service cuts on the rapid transit system and bus network puts the region’s transportation future in jeopardy,” the group said in a statement released Monday.  “Federal, state, and local officials must work together to restore critical services as quickly as possible.”

The dispatch was released by Wu’s office as a joint statement with Boston Chief of Streets Jascha Franklin-Hodge and transit groups including the LivableStreets Alliance, A Better City, and Transit Matters.

The groups call out the Biden Administration and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, demanding the federal government join in a working solution to a now decades old transit problem.

“To rebuild trust in transit, we call on Secretary Buttigieg and members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation to work with the MBTA and the FTA to restore safe, reliable service to Boston and the region,” the groups said.

Last Wednesday the troubled transit system announced it would be scaling back some bus and rapid transit service options going into the fall, citing a lack of available drivers despite months of aggressive hiring campaigns.

“Because of ongoing difficulties in hiring new bus operators, approximately 3% of scheduled T bus trips did not occur over the summer months. While the MBTA continues its aggressive hiring campaign, the MBTA is adjusting bus service on some routes beginning August 28, 2022, to better match scheduled service with the actual level of service being delivered,” the MBTA said in a release last week.

Wu and her transit allies blame the cuts on more than just driver shortages.

“These service cuts will overlap with the unprecedented Orange and Green Line shutdowns, compounding significant challenges for riders and the region, and raising serious equity, mobility, environmental, and economic concerns. Magnifying the impact of chronic underinvestment in infrastructure, these cuts underscore the MBTA’s continued inability to address critical systemic staffing issues,” the Mayor and transit groups said.

In addition to addressing the need for more drivers, the statement calls on the federal government to support the MBTA’s search for dispatchers, which they blame for a reduction in rail service seen since June.

“As additional dispatchers enter service, the MBTA, with support from the FTA, must prioritize restoration of peak period service levels as quickly as possible,” they said.

Buttigieg’s office did not return a request for comment.

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks at a groundbreaking ceremony for the New Portal North Bridge project held in Kearny, N.J., Monday, Aug 1, 2022. NJ Transit and Amtrak are replacing the century-old Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River in New Jersey doubling rail capacity between Newark and New York. (AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah)


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