Okay, this is a doozy of a service change. Thanks to our good pal COVID, there are some huge changes happening in the fall, namely some massive reconfiguring of resources. Routes that used to get packed are now nearly empty, while others have seen barely any drop from the pandemic and now need more service. The changes (which come into effect August 30th) are described on this page, but of course if you want a more colorful analysis (not to mention some of the official descriptions on the webpage are misleading or even wrong, as you’ll soon see), stick around for what will likely be an insanely long post! Also note that you can assume a route is returning to regular weekday service if it’s not mentioned here – I’m not gonna list all those out, although I appreciate the T for doing that on its page. Finally, don’t get too worried about the more drastic changes: I think a lot of these are temporary for COVID and will likely get rethought as ridership gets higher.

SLW: Wait, the SLW has a route page? You can’t even access it from the main bus page! That’s bizarre, but okay! Well, at any rate, this route will see an increase in weekday service. I don’t really know what that means because it didn’t have much of a schedule in the first place, but you can see here that rush hour service will be insanely frequent (maybe it always was, though).

CT2: Our first route with reduced frequency! Early morning times will stay the same, but throughout the midday, the route will run every hour instead of every 35 minutes, and the evening rush will lose some trips.

1: While the 1’s weekday schedule is unchanged, it’s gaining much-needed weekend service! Most weekend buses will come a minute or two more often than they do now, with a special case for Sunday mornings, which will jump from every 20 minutes now to every 15!

4: Yeeeeeah, it makes sense that they’re dropping trips on this one. It’ll run 12 trips per day instead of 16.

7: Okay, you cannot cut midday service from every 22 minutes to every 44 and say the route is returning to “nearly pre-COVID service levels”! Granted, the rush hour, when the vast majority of people are riding the 7, remains pretty much intact, losing at most a few trips (indeed, the morning rush gets a lot more easy to understand, with everything running at a clean 4-minute headway and every other trip ending at Congress and Atlantic, instead of the hodgepodge now).

8: I mean, when they say “Saturday morning service added“, they mean…one trip in each direction. Still, though, that’s something! Departure times are shifted a bit throughout the day, too.

9: There’s a bit of an influx in weekday service here! It’s mostly concentrated in the early morning and the morning rush, and there’s nothing too crazy, but it’s nice to see a few extra trips. Also interesting is the fact that the afternoon trip from Boston Latin is no longer marked with an “s” note! I can’t seem to get a direct answer about whether or not the school is open, but rest assured that even if it’s closed, that bus will seemingly still be running!

10: Saturday service is being reduced, down to every 30-40 minutes instead of every 20-25. That’s definitely a rough change…maybe the ridership consisted of South Bay Center shoppers that aren’t shopping right now?

11: Ooooooof, there are some big cuts on this one! The only time that stays relatively intact is rush hour, but other than that, it’s a mess. Weekday midday service is a hodgepodge with service every 35-45 minutes, seemingly at random, while Saturdays drop from every 20 minutes to every 30, and Sundays from every 40 minutes to every 60. Guess weekend ridership has been low for the 11…

15: Oh wow, Saturday sees an increase in service from every 15 minutes to every 13! That’s a decent jump!

16: Whoaaaa, Saturday service goes from every 20 minutes to a clean every 15??? That’s, like, significantly better than weekday service now! Is there still a random 20-minute gap between 1:30 and 1:50? Yeeeeeeah, but we’ll let it slide…this is still a huge improvement.

18: Uhhhh…okay, we’re 212-ing this, huh? The 18 will run all day on Saturdays still, but weekdays? Nah, weekdays are peak only! It’s ridiculously infrequent in the evening rush, too. This is awful!

22: Alright, there are some nice frequency improvements across the board here! Everything on weekdays and Saturdays gets bumped up by at least a few minutes, with some of the best changes being early morning weekday service and Saturday midday service getting improved to every 10 minutes (from every 15 and every 12-13 respectively). It would be nice to see the Sunday service become something better than every 20 minutes, but I guess that’s not on the table this season.

23: Pretty much the same boat as the 22 – weekdays and Saturdays see frequency upgrades. Again, it’s by a few minutes across the board, and again, Sundays remain untouched.

28: The weekday improvements for this one are very slight (just a few added trips throughout the day), but it’s still always nice to see them.

32: This one also sees increased frequency throughout the weekday! Man, I’m liking these changes!

38: One school trip on weekdays is eliminated, but that’s about it!

39: There are claims of increased weekday service here, but I can’t see any changes on the schedule besides the reintroduction of school trips. I’m sure there has been some improvement, but it doesn’t seem like it was much.

43: “Service operates during peak periods only”? But…but it doesn’t, though! At least not according to this timetable! The weekday schedule is reduced quite a bit, sure – it’s pretty much every 45 minutes or worse all day, when before it was every 20-30 – but it does still have midday service. Weird.

44: Wait, why are we reducing Saturday service from every 21 minutes to every 30 on this busy route through low-income neighborhoods? Has Saturday service been empty enough to justify that big of a frequency decrease?

45: Birds of a feather flock together, I guess. I would’ve thought this would be like the 44 for Saturday ridership, but I guess in this case that means another big decrease, from every 20 minutes to every 30. Huh.

47: They say this route will have more service. But I see…an identical schedule. Uh-oh!

52: AHHHHHH, this route is on life alert! Granted, I’ll bet hardly anyone is using the 52 right now…but it’s tough to see an all-day service drop down to just eleven one-way peak hour trips per day, including one that only runs on school days. Yikes.

55: Another “212-ing”, although this one is even more stark. So let me get this straight…you’re going to run only during rush hour on weekdays, with a bus every 35-40 minutes and only between Copley and Queensberry…but the weekend schedule will stay the same, including all-day service as frequent as every half hour? Uhhhhhhhh…okay…

57: Whoaaaaa, we’ve got a massively expanded rush hour here! There are way more 57A trips from Oak Square, meaning that service from there will be every five minutes or better during the rush! There’s some added service middays and on Saturdays too, but rush hour is definitely the 57’s big winner.

59: Ah, it’s a case where improving to “nearly pre-COVID service levels” means “Hey, we’re gonna cut the half-hourly weekday midday service down to every 50 minutes!” Granted, that feels like a typical service cut we might see in any service change, but it’s disingenuous to call that “nearly pre-COVID”, I think.

60: Okay, this is “nearly pre-COVID service levels”! Yeah, they basically make the morning rush hour end earlier (transitioning to the midday frequency after 9 AM), which seems like a reasonable change.

62/76: So these routes are going to be combined full-time, reducing their service pretty heavily. The weekend schedule stays the same, but I do have to give credit to the weekday schedule’s simplicity – it’s every half hour during the peak and every hour at all other times, with buses running as late into the night as they do in the current schedule. Note that the Hanscom Civil Air Terminal will only be served in the reverse-peak direction so that the route can keep an hourly headway.

65: This is a route that sees a ton of commuters to the Longwood Medical Area, so given that, it makes sense to see rush hour service improvements. This does come at the expense of the midday, whose frequency will be halved, but this is a very peaky route with little ridership during those times, so it’s not too disruptive of a change.

66: Wowwww, big improvements across the board here that were much-needed. On weekday middays, service goes from every 13 minutes to every 10-11! For a good chunk of weeknights, service goes from every 15 minutes to every 12! On Sundays, buses will run every 15 minutes instead of every 17! And on Saturdays, when service is currently running every 17 minutes, it will increase to every 12. Should this have happened long ago? Absolutely. But wow, it doesn’t make it any less incredible to see it in the flesh.

70: Uhhhh…yeah, I think they’ve added, like, two round trips on weekdays? I guess that is technically “more service than pre-COVID”…

71: They’re claiming more service than pre-COVID, but, uh, nope, these schedules are identical. Trackless trolley service is apparently coming back, though!!!!!!!!!

73: What the heck! This one gets the opposite script from the 71 (“nearly pre-COVID”), yet its schedule is also identical! No indication about whether or not trackless trolleys are coming back on this one either. That makes me sad.

77: Hmm…seemingly no change to the schedule…except on Sundays, when service will increase from every 17 minutes to every 15, but only in the outbound direction? That’s…suspicious. Nothing is written about this in the service change notice either – all that’s mentioned in there is that the 77A is still suspended.

78/84: This is a really sensible change for COVID times: the 84 is being suspended, but to compensate, all 78 trips will run to Arlmont. The 78’s schedule remains pretty much the same actually, but note trip time changes because of the new destination on some runs.

79: Okay, but honestly, this should’ve happened long ago – this route is being made peak-only. I mean seriously, we already have the 77! I know it’s ostensibly a temporary COVID change, but this makes a lot of sense!

86: Ooh! Huh! Okay, rush hour gets a bit more service, which is great, but also the route will be every 15 minutes or better for most of the weekday now! It’s still every 25-35 minutes from 9 AM to 1 PM, but, er, hopefully those gaps will get filled in later, eh?

87: Uhhh…”nearly pre-COVID” service levels? There are going to be more trips in the evening rush now! And everything else is the same besides some time shifts! Yeah, this is definitely an improvement, not a reduction!

88: And another one! Granted, this isn’t an improvement like the 87 was, but it’s not “nearly” pre-COVID either – as far as I can tell, the schedule is completely the same besides some school trips coming back!

89: The schedule is mostly the same, but Saturday mornings do lose some service from around 7 AM to 9 AM. Only a few trips are cut, though, and while it does lower the frequency, I would guess that ridership isn’t huge during those times.

90: Ah…well, this one makes up for the past few times when “nearly” didn’t mean anything – this time it’s, uh, a lot more than nearly. I mean, would you call halving midday service to be every hour instead of every half hour “nearly” pre-COVID??

91: Okay, MBTA, I’m calling your bluff on this one: you say that 91 service is “reduced”, when it’s getting pretty much the exact same changes as the 90? Literally its weekday schedule is also being cut from every half hour to every hour! Be consistent with your dang language! Sadly, the 91’s Saturday service gets a similar treatment, too, dropping from every 25 minutes to every 50.

92: Another “reduced” one where we’re going from every half hour to every hour on weekdays! The evening rush loses service too, although the morning rush stays intact.

94: Yikes – every 80 minutes during the weekday instead of every 40? And it’s another “nearly” pre-COVID situation to boot! Saturday trips also get shifted around, including some cut trips. Weird that there are going to be departures at both 11:21 and 11:46 PM from Davis on Saturdays, though – maybe ridership is just really really high then to justify having two of the closest-spaced runs on the whole route?

95: Wow, this schedule is a mess. But in essence, Saturday service is getting reduced – generally it’s going to be every hour, but in the same way the current schedule is all over the place, this one will be too. Mornings and especially afternoons will be significantly more frequent than other portions of the Saturday.

96: The beginning and end of Saturday service lose out here – nights get cut from every 40 minutes to every hour, while in the mornings, when service currently runs every half hour (more frequent than at any other point in the day), it’ll run around every hour (not a clean hour, but close enough, I guess…sigh…).

99: Weekdays aren’t too bad, losing only a few trips in the morning (although it does mean there won’t be any increase in frequency for the morning rush), but Saturday headways get cut in half. That means service as infrequent as every hour and forty minutes! Sundays will be more frequent than Saturdays now!

101: Okay, so weekends get cuts here. The Saturday ones make sense: they basically chopped off the ends of service, so that early mornings and nights are hourly instead of half-hourly, while middays stay the same. Sundays, though…I’m a little worried about getting rid of half the trips to make it every hour or worse all day. This was a busy route that already didn’t run frequently enough, and while I could be wrong, I would guess that this change might serve to exacerbate crowding.

104: Have we reached the point where this and the 109 are as frequent as they deserve to be? No, but they’re certainly heading in the right direction with these changes! On weekdays, the 104 will drop from every 40-45 minutes to every 20-30 (plus big rush hour improvements too), and while the paper schedule for Saturdays and Sundays keeps the guidelines of “every 40 minutes” and “every 45 minutes” respectively, in actuality buses are going to run about every 25-30 and every 30-40. The headways are definitely all over the place, but these routes need as much service as they can get, so I’ll take it.

105: They say “nearly” pre-COVID levels, but it’s the same schedule. Nice!

106: This route returns with more rush hour service, which is always nice! What they don’t say in their little “more service than pre-COVID” blurb, though, is that Sunday service goes from being hourly to being every seventy minutes! C’mon, MBTA, you gotta give us the full picture – clearly service isn’t improving across the board here.

108: Uhhhh…okay, the good news is that this route’s weekday midday service is getting more frequent, which is awesome! But, uhhh, the way they added service seems to have been just putting an additional bus ten minutes before every existing trip. So here, let me list off some of the route’s departures from Linden Square, with new ones in parentheses: 11:05, (11:29), 11:39, 12:13, (12:37), 12:47, 1:21, (1:45), 1:56…like, what the heck is this??? Again, any improvement is good, but this is bizarre. Oh, there are time shifts on Saturdays, too.

109: This seems to be about the same as the 104, with the same headway increases. It’s all a bit crazy so there’s seemingly no coordination between the two routes on their shared section, but they often slot between each other enough that it kinda works anyway.

111: Ahh, the route that can never have enough service improvements. Honestly it’s hard to summarize the changes here when the 111 is as crazy as it is, but rest assured that on weekdays and Saturdays, this ultra-frequent route will become even more ultra-frequent across the board.

112: I mean, if minor time shifts on weekends with no change to the number of trips means “more service than pre-COVID”, then…uh…then I guess I’m not cut out for this.

116/117: Some pretty massive improvements to the rush hour periods on these routes, with a ton of extra trips from the start of service through the morning rush, and then from around 2 PM until 6!

134: “More service than pre-COVID”? Nope, wrong again – besides the regular school trip additions, which would’ve happened anyway, the changes are nada.

136/137: Okay, this is definitely tough to see, but it’s sensible. Weekday midday trips will operate as the combined 136/137 loop like what happens on Sundays. Given that it’s a similar frequency (hourly, which is sadly a reduction from the current 35-minute headway) to Saturdays, I wonder why they didn’t opt to run bidirectional service like they do then, although each route running every two hours certainly wouldn’t be optimal! Also, I wouldn’t call this “nearly” pre-COVID service levels, and I also feel obliged to point out the shading error for inbound trips on the schedule – I’m told it’ll be fixed, but for now, that’s, uh, not good!

170: This route will remain suspended for the time being.

210: Time shifts for a few outbound runs on Saturday mornings (wow, it’s a nice break to report such a menial change!).

211: Aww, okay, they note that Saturday service is reduced, but this is actually a good change in my opinion: the route will run every hour instead of every 55 minutes. That does mean it’ll lose a trip, but the schedule will also be simpler and much easier to remember!

212: The route I’ve made fun of several times on this post for having a better Saturday schedule than weekday will now have…an even better Saturday schedule. That’s right, service will start at 6 AM instead of 8 AM!

214/216: Rush hour seems to be the same, but these routes see some big cuts during the weekday midday, when they will operate every 40 minutes as the combined 214/216, rather than the kinda-sorta every 15 minute schedule operating now. Saturdays are being cut too, from the current alternating 10-30 minute headways (uhhh…) to every 40. Also weirdly, there’s no Germantown timepoint on Saturdays anymore – the running times are the same so I assume it’s still running via the 214 route too, but I’m not sure! Very weird.

222: A few minor time shifts on Saturday nights.

226: “Saturday service increased.” Uhh…nope, it’s the same.

230: Ah, inbound Saturday departures will be a little more consistent now! That’s nice!

236: Whoaaaaaaa, this thing’s being cut to five peak-only round trips per day on weekdays?? It’s barely breathing! AND YET THE SATURDAY SERVICE IMPROVES FROM EVERY 70 MINUTES TO EVERY HOUR! Move your South Shore Plaza shopping day to Saturday, I guess!

238: Some nice weekday and Saturday improvements in the form of new early morning trips, which is always welcome!

240: Like the 238, new trips are being added on weekday and Saturday mornings. There are also new trips during the day on Saturdays, but the coordination between Crawford and Avon trips is abysmal, including a couple of departures at seemingly the exact same time. Maybe it’s a typo?

245: Oh yikes…we’re down to five round trips per day, and only at rush hour. Granted, cutting this back from an all-day schedule makes more sense than with the 236, since this one doesn’t have weekend service, but it would be a shame if this change ended up being permanent (which in this case feels more plausible).

325/326: These routes will remain suspended for the time being.

350: Hey, the suburbs are getting some love! Both peak and midday service on weekdays will get frequency improvements – the former will be every 15-20 minutes instead of every 20-30, and the latter will be every 40 minutes instead of every hour!

351: This route will remain suspended for the time being.

352/354: Okay, bad news first: the 352 will remain suspended. To compensate, though, the 354 will get extended to North Burlington! But that compensation does come with reduced frequency – the route will run every 45 minutes in the morning and every 50 in the evening, down from every 25-30. Also weirdly, there’s no inbound timepoint for North Burlington! Huh…

424: One morning rush trip is dropped, but the rest is intact!

426: Most of the cuts here seem to be in the evening rush – they’ve cannibalized most of the trips from Wonderland and even one from Haymarket during that time.

428/434/451/456: These routes will remain suspended for the time being (just lumping them all together into one entry).

501/503: Some people are rightfully upset about this one, but I think it’s a reasonable COVID change – the 501 and 503 have been combined, so all buses will travel via Copley Square on their way to downtown. The combined route is also going to run more trips per day, although that comes less from pure frequency improvements and more from spreading frequent service across the rush (the consistent every ten minute service from 4:25 to 7:35 PM looks awesome).

502/504: Yup, ditto for these. Once again the combined schedule boasts a clean and consistent rush hour. Middays are unchanged, but unfortunately the Saturday schedule (curiously labelled “502”) is every 60-70 minutes instead of every 40.

505: This route will remain suspended for the time being.

553/554/556/558: All of the 550-series routes are being cut back to Newton Corner, which hopefully shouldn’t be too much of a problem for downtown commuters with the new 501/503 and 502/504 combos. The only one keeping midday service is the 553, which will run about every 45 minutes all day (it’s hourly now) – the other three routes will only operate at rush hour. Also, the 553’s Saturday service will be reduced from every 45 minutes to (oof) every 90.

Okay, overall, huge kudos to the MBTA service planning team for this one! Were there some frustrating changes? Absolutely. But it seemed like for every questionable change, there were two (well…maybe one and a half) good ones, including a few routes that got some huge improvements. I would say that despite some nasty cuts, most of them are likely temporary, and this has overall been probably the most positive list of service changes I’ve ever covered on the blog! My biggest qualm was with the language, honestly – there were a ton of inconsistencies, misleadings, and even inaccuracies in the descriptions provided on the website, and I think it’s something that you only realize when you’ve actually combed through all the schedules to see what the changes are. But anyway, what do you think of these changes? Let me know in the comments, because I’m sure there’ll be differing opinions!