What is the MBTA?

Orange Line Train at Assembly Station
Photo Credit: MBTA Customer Experience

The MBTA owns and operates one of the oldest and largest public transportation agencies in the US, serving more than 1.2 million passenger trips each weekday prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The MBTA’s services, or modes, include:

  • Heavy Rail — The MBTA operates three heavy rail lines: the Red Line, Blue Line, and Orange Line. Collectively, these lines provide core subway services.
  • Light Rail — The MBTA’s primary light rail system, the Green Line, provides services to outlying areas to the west and subway service through the center of the city. The MBTA also operates the Mattapan Trolley, which serves as an extension of the Red Line from Ashmont to Mattapan.
  • Bus — The MBTA operates more than 170 bus routes directly or via contract, including five bus rapid transit routes via the Silver Line and 15 key routes that offer frequent service to higher-ridership corridors. Local bus routes, commuter or express routes, and supplemental routes comprise the rest of MBTA bus service.
  • Commuter Rail — The MBTA’s 12 primary commuter rail lines link cities and towns around the state with downtown Boston.
  • Ferry — The MBTA provides ferry services on two routes between downtown Boston, the South Shore, Logan Airport, and Charlestown.
  • Paratransit — The MBTA provides paratransit service via the RIDE to eligible customers in 58 cities and towns in eastern Massachusetts.

MBTA System Map

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[Data Table]

COVID-19 Impacts

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the associated Stay at Home Advisory, and ongoing telework from mid-March 2020 through the end of the 2020 fiscal year in June, MBTA services saw drastic declines in ridership. The MBTA reduced service levels in the spring to align with decreased demand and employee availability, but partially restored service by the end of FY20 to accommodate social distancing guidelines and continue safely serving essential trips. Throughout the pandemic, the MBTA has continued to prioritize employee and rider safety, with efforts including:

  • Disinfection protocols and face covering requirements,
  • Rear-door boarding on buses and trolleys from March through June,
  • Service adjustments to run additional buses to mitigate crowding, and
  • Implementation of real-time crowding information for buses and historical crowding estimations for heavy rail lines, and
  • Fever screening for MBTA employees in the spring, and on-site COVID-19 testing for employees by later summer 2020.

Decreased ridership has resulted in significant revenue losses primarily from fares—these losses were mitigated by federal assistance from the CARES Act, but will present an unprecedented challenge for the MBTA in coming fiscal years. Some Tracker measures for the MBTA, such as bus service operated, cannot be reported for FY20 due to changes in scheduled services. Other measures, such as bus passenger comfort and fare recovery ratio, are at times reported separately for pre-pandemic and pandemic periods. Finally, certain measures do not have associated targets for FY20, and will be updated in 2021 as recovery continues.



MBTA Performance Measurement

The MBTA uses performance measures to track progress toward goals, provide accountability and transparency, and plan for future programs and investments. A number of current initiatives and plans include goals and performance measures that align with those included in Tracker. To ensure alignment among these efforts, OPMI has worked closely with MBTA and MassDOT staff and MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB) members in the development and presentation of these performance measures and targets. The following plans and performance tools are related to Tracker: