MBTA Offering Incentives Amid Lagging Commuter Rail Ridership

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BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said Thursday morning that the MBTA will be extending incentive programs for the Commuter Rail as workers return to their in-person offices.

The service's ridership noticeably lags behind other recovering forms of public transit. Poftak said the Commuter Rail is carrying around 30,000-32,000 customers a day, compared to around 115,000-120,000 daily riders before the pandemic — between 25-30% of pre-pandemic normal.

This gap isn't the case for other forms of transit run by the MBTA, which Poftak said had higher proportions of ridership compared to pre-COVID times.

"The message we want to send is, we're ready. When people are ready to travel, when they need to travel, the MBTA is ready and it's safe," he said.

Poftak said the Commuter Rail is expecting gradual growth in the next month, reaching a turning point in early September, but cautioned that the larger return of office workers may be delayed past that point.

The T said it would extend its 5-day "FlexPass" program through next March — which gives customers five 24-hour passes to ride the Commuter Rail as much as they want within a 30-day period. That program was scheduled to expire in September.

Poftak said the MBTA would also be adding back some service to the lines on Sunday, and has produced video "toolkits" for workers that have been away from the MBTA to explain its cleaning and COVID protocols.

More than a dozen stations will be giving out free masks after Labor Day, the Authority said.

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Written by Chaiel Schaffel

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