The Service Planner’s Challenge

The job of the MBTA bus service planner is one of the most thankless jobs in government. At peak hour, all available bus operators are deployed, so any increase in peak hour service for one route means a decrease for another. With every service reallocation, some riders suffer; these riders and their elected representatives demand explanations.

From the bottom-up perspective of the district I represent, I’m focused on the recent cuts to service in my district. But I’ve also wanted to understand the challenge from the top-down perspective that service planners have to take. This post is about understanding that perspective.

What I take away is that staffing shortages will likely reduce MBTA bus service for months or even several years. We should plan for modestly reduced bus service. We should ask for realistic service promises and then ask that those promises be kept — that buses run as scheduled.

Computations underlying the charts in this post appear in this spreadsheet.

The COVID Context

MBTA bus service planners — like bus service planners everywhere — have been adjusting service to respond to both a shortage of riders and a shortage of bus drivers.

Employment in the Boston region recovered rapidly from the pandemic shock of March 2020, reaching 91% of its pre-COVID level by September 2020. However, bus ridership was at only 42% of pre-COVID levels in September 2020 and remained at roughly 70% of pre-COVID levels in the Fall of 2022.

From MBTA Data Portal and Bureau of Labor Statistics

At the same time, the job of allocating staffed buses to routes has gotten harder over the past few years as the number of buses with available staff for operation in maximum service declined 21% from 767 in October 2019 to 609 in December 2022. In the same period, October morning peak inbound trips have dropped approximately 20%.

From MBTA Data Portal Bus Departures File and the National Transit Database

Peak service is not a complete indicator of service volume. In fact, the T has strengthened mid-day service intentionally to better serve more flexible work schedules and the peak hours have declined slightly as a share of all hours.

From MBTA Data Portal Ridership File

Total vehicle-revenue-hours — the sum total number of hours of that buses are in service — offers a more comprehensive metric of the total volume of service and does show a substantial decline — 15% from October 2019 to October 2022.

From National Transit Database

The declines in both peak service trips and total service hours are due primarily to the shortage of bus drivers. According to the MBTA’s legislative liaison, “The budgeted headcount for bus operators is 1,823 with the current active headcount at 1,474 and 349 vacancies.” For multiple reasons, the MBTA has seen many bus operators retire or otherwise depart. It has been unable to replace them. COVID encouraged departures and also made training and recruiting harder. Additionally, the MBTA maintains hiring standards: MBTA drivers need to have a good driving record and pass a criminal background check, a physical, and a drug test. Currently only about 10% of applicants pass these screens.

Public transit agencies across the country are facing difficulties in hiring bus drivers, according to a February 2022 survey conducted by the American Public Transportation Association. Bus operators are harder to hire than train operators because bus drivers must have a commercial driver’s license. Nationwide, people with CDLs are in short supply.

MBTA management and the MBTA board are struggling to improve recruitment and retention. But with only a few dozen operators coming on every few months and some operators departing, it may take several years for the MBTA to fill its targeted staffing level. Until the work force reaches pre-COVID levels, the MBTA must continue to run fewer total hours of bus service.

Considerations in Service Allocation

Historically, in most planning cycles, there has been great stability of routes and service allocation. Along any long-standing bus route, some people — including some who cannot drive — have chosen homes in specific contemplation of using the route. They have acted in reliance on the expectation that service on the route will continue and they will push back vocally against a loss of service. For that reason, wholesale eliminations of bus routes happen only rarely — the COVID emergency was exceptional. Even changes in span (length of service coverage during the day) are undertaken with great caution.

Until the recent Bus Network Redesign proposal, the MBTA had not in anyone’s memory considered a systemwide revision of routes. Bus Network Redesign posited an expansion of overall service by 25%, so minimizing the need to cannibalize existing routes to provide new routes. The proposal, while exciting, well-vetted, and board-approved, remains a conceptual exercise since the MBTA cannot hire the drivers it needs to provide even its existing service.

Although wholesale route eliminations are rare, on a quarterly basis, MBTA bus service planners do routinely adjust the allocation of available buses across the MBTA’s approximately 170 bus routes. The first question in reallocation is how big the operator workforce is likely to be in the coming quarter. Then the question is how to allocate resources among routes.

In allocating service, the foremost consideration has usually been crowding. Are any buses so crowded that some people are being left behind? Additionally, schedules are reviewed to see if buses are able to meet the schedules in typical traffic. When service on one route needs to be increased (and the workforce is not expanding), then the most likely response is to reduce the frequency of service on a lesser-used route.

Because overall ridership over the past three years has been depressed, crowding has been much less of an issue. Published MBTA statistics include averages of how many riders there are at each stop on each route at each time of day in each season. The chart below shows that the average maximum number of passengers on buses (passengers on the bus after any stop in the run of a bus) declined substantially through the pandemic for all times of day.

Average of maximum number of passengers on the bus at any one time on inbound trips

Even in the Fall of 2021, as ridership had partially recovered, only one bus in the system was showing typical peak period crowding of over 30 riders (fewer riders than seats on a typical bus). That does not mean that other buses never experienced standing-room-only runs in the Fall of 2021. Rather, it means that the average maximum load reached during the peak period was under 30 on each route except that one route. If a peak period trip is dropped on a route, the load could increase above the average maximum for the route.

While ridership was down and routine crowding abated on almost all routes, the level of persisting ridership varied widely across routes as shown in the histogram chart below.

Excludes routes that were eliminated and routes that were added.

With little actual crowding and a substantial loss of available capacity, the question in allocating service has recently been more about how to allocate cuts. With the wide variation in persisting ridership, underlying equity considerations came more to the foreground. Do people who have no viable alternative to bus service have adequate service — especially essential workers? Equity factors are hard to measure and weigh, but on any particular route, the persistence of ridership in the depth of the pandemic is an indicator that many of the riders on the route are truly transit dependent. Indeed, careful analysis of ridership changes during COVID in multiple transit systems tends to confirm what is intuitively obvious: Those without alternatives were the ones most likely to remain on the system through the pandemic.

Protection of transit-dependent riders, those on routes with persistent ridership through the pandemic, was repeatedly highlighted in discussions of service changes. The scatter charts below confirm that ridership persisting in Fall 2020 (as a % of Fall 2019 ridership) was positively correlated with service level changes implemented from Fall 2019 to Fall 2021. Each point on the charts represents a bus route, positioned horizontally by its Fall 2020 level of ridership as compared to pre-COVID levels and vertically by its peak hour inbound trip in the Fall of 2021 compared to pre-COVID levels. The three charts break out high, medium, and low frequency routes. The relationship of trip change to ridership persistence is clearest for the larger routes. For the low frequency routes (bottom scatter), the scatter gets messier — for low frequency routes, it’s harder to change frequency without making the route unviable.

Note that the trip count cut points for the three charts (>15, 8-15, < 8) are chosen so that the total trips accounted for by the routes shown in each chart are roughly equal. Note also that all routes had Fall 2020 ridership persistence under 60%, the SLW (Silver Line Way) route being the only exception. The SLW is off the x-axis scale in the top chart — it had ridership persistence of 88% and gained 27% in route count.

Weekday inbound AM peak hour changes — trips vs. ridership:
Fall 2021 Trips as % of Fall 2019 Trips (Y-axis) vs. Fall 2020 Ridership as % of Fall 2019 (X-axis)

Truth in Advertising

For planners under pressure to preserve published service schedules, one temptation is to schedule more buses than they can actually run. Published schedules need to assume that some bus drivers will not show up for work on any given day — there needs to be a reserve of buses and drivers to fill in. Otherwise, schedule gaps will open up. In public meetings, planners acknowledged that in the Fall of 2021, as many as one in twenty trips were being dropped. It’s hard to get an exact handle on dropped trips from available data, but this data from October 2021 for the 73 bus is consistent with up to ten percent of trips being dropped on some days:

The MBTA data portal cautions that the departures file may be incomplete, but a comparison of the departures file to the on-time-performance file tends to confirm that the trips missing in the departure file were likely actually dropped. The on-time-performance denominator (ironically) excludes trips that are actually dropped — if it didn’t run it wasn’t late. The OTP denominator correlates closely with the departures file.

For me, speaking as one rider: with crowding usually at manageable levels right now, the most important concern is reliability of schedule (whether by exact times or by spacing). (See survey of other riders below.) Reliability is especially valuable now that smart phone apps are available showing when buses are supposed to arrive. The apps allow better planning, including planning of multi-route trips, but they are useless if buses don’t run as advertised.

Modestly larger spacing is not an issue if buses come on time. I very much hope that T planners will realistically size overall service to match available drivers, keeping some capacity in reserve so that they can sustain all promised schedules, even if several operators are unable to report for duty. That has been their stated intention in recent planning cycles. I hope that they will err on the side of reliability, even if it means reducing stated schedule frequency until they are able to rebuild their operator workforce (which by all indications will take several years).

Addendum — Survey Results

As I released this post, I conducted a survey of current and former bus riders by email invitation to my constituent lists and to community lists.

1,164 people responded to the survey; all but 58 of them identified a bus within my senate district as their primary bus.

Here are the highlights of the results of the survey.

  • 48% (554 out of 1,164 respondents) said they were riding less or not riding anymore since since COVID. This is consistent with the durable loss of ridership noted above.
  • Among the 554 who are riding less, reasons offered were:
    • Working from home (29%)
    • Other job/life changes (28%)
    • Health concerns (16%)
    • Service not good (14%)
    • Other (10%)
    • Service no longer available (4% — three quarters of whom had been riding the 55)
  • Asked for their “biggest complaint about bus service right now” riders chose
    •  Not frequent enough (36%)
    •  Not reliable, can’t trust (24%)
    •  No complaints (23%)
    •  Not at times I need (6%)
    •  Other (9%)
    •  Not clean (1%)
    •  Disorderly/noisy (1%)
  • Asked to make a choice between reliability and frequency, 56% emphasized reliability and 44% emphasized frequency.
  • 8 routes had more than 50 respondents that identified them as their primary bus (1, 55, 57, 66, 71, 73, 74/5, 86). The results did not vary dramatically across these bus routes, except:
    • riders of the 55 bus were much more likely to report that they were riding less or not at all and most of them blamed service cuts (and, indeed, the 55 lost all peak hour service); they were the riders least likely to have no current complaints (only 3%).
    • riders of the 72/74/75 were least likely to complain about service levels (only 7%) as a reason for riding less, likely because most of them had experienced a relatively recent service increase due to route adjustments in the first phase of Bus Network Redesign; however, they were average in the extent to which they were riding less or not at all (48%).
    • riders of the 86 were especially likely to complain of infrequent service (57%)
  • the 26 responding riders of the Brighton Turnpike bus (502/504), a smaller group in the survey, were almost as unhappy as the 55 riders, with only 4% having no complaints and 80% complaining about frequency and reliability issues. The 502 and 504 were previously separate routes and we’ve heard complaints about crowding to the point where not all can board.
  • Asked about frequency vs. reliability in the abstract, 56% emphasized reliability. However, in terms of the routes that they are riding, people were more likely to complain about frequency (36%) than reliability (24%).

The raw anonymous survey responses can be downloaded in this spreadsheet.

I haven’t responded individually to each comment below, but I’ve read them all (as of 3/2) and will continue to review additional comments. We will share them with the T. I appreciate the time all have given to responding.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

93 replies on “The Service Planner’s Challenge”

  1. The busses are the workhouses of any major transit system around the world as they often plug a critical hole in service and connect riders to various stations that are not easily walkable etc. This rings particularly true for riders in Brighton Center and Oak Square who would have too long of a walk to either BC or Boston Landing stations. For Brighton riders even pre pandemic bus schedules were spotty on the Downtown express buses in particular the 501 from Brighton to Downtown. You are spot on with the shortage in staffing being a major culprit and cause of the current issues. There are no obvious solutions to this part aside from long term HR changes to the T as well as looking at new ways to recruit and train potential T staff as well as adjustments in schedules/pay that could hire/retain more drivers.

    One thing the State could/should do though is help improve the flow of existing bus routes. Help cities/towns pay to upgrade traffic lights along all bus routes to give priority to T buses and school buses. Provide funding for Cities/towns to convert existing lanes to bus lanes along major routes (though this only works if town/transit police enforce this). Finally provide funding to speed up bus battery electrification as the technology is there and these new battery/electric busses will have less maintenance associated with them and provide a faster trip as electric busses are able to accelerate faster than a diesel/natural gas bus.

    1. One thing the State could/should do though is help improve the flow of existing bus routes. Help cities/towns pay to upgrade traffic lights along all bus routes to give priority to T buses and school buses. Provide funding for Cities/towns to convert existing lanes to bus lanes along major routes (though this only works if town/transit police enforce this).

      Yes! There is lot of energy going into bus lanes and signal priority. Each bus lane is its own story of tradeoffs and progress requires municipal support. Boston and Cambridge have been moving fast on this.

  2. Will, the biggest problem with the MBTA is lack of notifying passengers when they have to skip a trip. Last week theMBTA skipped the 3:05 pm trip altogether without sending out an alert. There was no Inspector at Federal Street to alert those of us waiting to go home. This means passengers spent a minimum of 35 minutes waiting for the next bus at 3:30 pm. I have been advised that the MBTA is going to eliminate the Inspector at Federal Street starting in March with the Spring schedule.

      1. No to mention the fact that the next bus will essentially be picking up the riders of two trips and invariably will become later and later as it proceeds. A double whammy for the riders.

  3. Hi Will. Thank you so much for this. We mostly don’t ride the bus OR train because we would not be able to withstand Covid and other serious infections due to risk factors, and very few people are masking now, so we don’t feel safe. However we don’t usually need to go very far so we don’t drive a lot either. We ride our bikes a lot too. But if we did need a bus it would indeed help if it’ were mostly reliable and has more morning schedule choices.

    1. One-way masking is highly effective against respiratory viruses (if you are able to get a tight fit of a N95 or KN-“95”) and the MBTA touts the quality of their air filtration.

      1. Have you seen the recently published results on the Cochrane Library website? It’s the most prestigious medical trial results review in the world. Look for the paper titled “physical interventions to interrupt or reduce the spread of respiratory viruses” dated 30 January of this year. Careful analysis of all valid published randomized control trials show that masking is useless.

        1. Of 80 studies cited allegedly finding masking “useless” 78 turned out to be invalid or, as the one Kenneth cites, not specific to Covid. Reasons for studies being invalid range from they relied on poor questions to insufficient sampling, but mostly obvious poor controls over the data surveys.

          1. Bottom line: there is no valid published evidence in peer-reviewed professional journals that masking is effective for preventing transmission of/infection by flu or flu-like respiratory viruses…including COVID-19. This applies to the familiar blue surgical masks as well as the more highly-rated M95 masks. Any recommendations or mandates that claim otherwise are not supported by scientific evidence.

  4. Yesterday I discovered to my chagrin and cold feet that there are two (2) #75 buses. The #75 Aberdeen does not go to Belmont Center, but rather turns left on Aberdeen Ave to return to Harvard Square. Confusing! I walked around Fresh Pond on Huron until the real #75 came round. I won’t make that mistake again!

    1. I don’t take the 75 but noticed this yesterday while waiting for the 73 at Harvard Station. What happened to the 72?

    2. Yes! There’s the real #75, the 75 Belmont, and the phony #75, the 75 Aberdeen and you can’t always tell them apart from the front sign. If the MBTA retired the #72 route why not just give that name to the Huron Aberdeen route? Cooking the books?

  5. At a time when kids are told they have no right to park on high school grounds, Bill Lovallo, we should make the bus easier to access for kids in the Waverly Square. area. It doesn’t affect me either way but I see so many kids walking on Waverly St. lugging instruments, backpack, on front and back and sports bags to get to school. Doesn’t it make sense to for the bus to take the route that will service most people? South Pleasant Street doesn’t have many homes. Waverley Sq to Concord Ave makes sense. ( I’m not opposed to a bus going to Arlington Center, that’s great, but it doesn’t help our kids get to school)

  6. The 55 Bus used to be great for working people, early morning and evening times, straight down to Park St where we could walk to work if we worked downtown, or get on Red and Orange line if needed. Thay are pushing working residents out of the city by taking away the services we need, now the bus doesn’t start until 10 AM, stops at 3PM, and only goes down toe Copley. The rush hour times were the only time you would see the bus close to full.

  7. Drop or adjust criminal background check. If someone is not imprisoned why should they be denied the job? A stable well paying job will be great for anyone who may have made a mistake before. We also know that police workers can be unconsciously biased against some people. Hence criminal records of these people may not be a fair indication of their character at all.

  8. I would take the 71, the 57, or the 502/504 about equally. I’m riding less often now because since the pandemic I’m going less often to places in Cambridge or Boston. Biggest problem for me was having to walk about a mile to get to a bus stop.

  9. Thanks for posting this Will and for continuing to surveylocal MBTA riders. As the Commonwealth, MBTA and the City of Watertown plan and redesign Watertown Square, I hope they will take a close look at the disconnect within the square for bus service transfers among the #57, #71, #70, #502, #504, #59, #52, etc. All of these bus routes either go through or turn around in “Watertown Square;” however, for riders who need to transfer among them, especially for people with mobility or disability issues, it’s a nightmare. Although they all turn around or go through Watertown Square, the #57, #502, #504 & #52 turn around at Watertown Yard which is across a very busy intersection and several hundred feet from the #71 & #59 turn around termanis at the Delta in Watertown Square. …And then, another several hundred feet down Main Street (in Watertown Square) is the East Bound bus stop for the #70 at the intersection of Cross and Main.
    Good transit planning would place all of these bus routes’ stops in one location. If that cannot be done, although I think it can since there are no longer green line trolleys nor trackless trolleys with overhead electric wires serving these routes, at least there should be EXCELLENT SIGNAGE showing riders where to go to transfer to the other bus routes. Right now, there is NO SIGNAGE AT ALL. Unacceptable in the year 2023, where we have good signage all across the country for the interstate highways.

    1. The 70 East Bound used to stop closer to the Delta, I am not sure why it was moved. I agree that better signage is needed at least; I have had to direct many people at the Delta to the Watertown Yard buses.

  10. I am now and have been working off and on with temp/contract jobs since the pandemic tech job collapse, The option of owning a car is no longer there. The biggest problem is finding work that I can get to. I had a job in Burlington which was 4 miles from home. I would take a bus to Alewife then back out to Burlington. Commute time about 50 minutes 1 way. If the weather was with me I would bike there in 25 minutes. The next job was in Charlestown, I would take the bus to Alewife, one stop to Davis then a bus to Sullivan Sq. This was 75 minutes one way. I could take the subway to downtown crossing then orange line to Sullivan station. That takes longer, about 10 extra minutes assuming there were no problems with the trains. Our subway is starting to get state of the art equipment but the routing concept is profoundly behind the times. The T’s biggest challenge is Job opportunities are moving outside their service area. The MBTA spoke and hub design is a 19th century solution to a 20th century urban planning problem that is totally obsolete in the 21st century. I get almost daily Linked-in job descriptions. 80% are out of state and the remainder are in central Massboro and in the Andover area. It is distressing to see how public policy fails in Massachusetts let me down so much. I am getting sent the message that it is time for me to leave the area. It is not serving me.

    1. So true! You can’t get there from here. It’s almost like the MBTA system by design reinforces segregation. My T commute is an hour and a quarter each way minimum, but forty minutes by car.

    2. Well, if you can take the commuter rail to where you want to go outside the city (you can’t to Burlington), you’ll find that when you get off the train in smaller trains, if you’re not already near the train station, you’ve got another transportation problem to solve. For example, the commuter rail stops in Waltham Center, but most of the office space in Waltham is farther west aside 128. Not walkable.

  11. Belmont has a large number of elderly residents. Like myself. I would not be happy to see us lose the #74 that travels from Belmont Center to Harvard Square.

  12. Bus stops with enclosed sections often lack lighting, which makes it difficult for the bus drivers to see the stop at all or in time to stop for potential passengers. Lighting would also extend to the area around the stop as an advantage to the community. Some bus stops are located down hill or just beyond a sharp turn, which also makes it difficult for the drivers to stop in time (near my stop on Chestnut Hill Avenue as well as the second bus stop outside Harvard Square before crossing the bridge from Cambridge to Allston).

  13. Agree on reliability. People can lose jobs from buses or trains not showing up when they should. Low frequency may hurt quality of life, though. You can plan to leave as early as necessary, but that plan may involve your kid making his own breakfast and making his own way to school. But this being Boston we can’t have it all or, when it comes to transit, anything particularly good.

  14. Will,

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment on this. As a rider if the 504 bus (which as we know is actually a consolidated 502/504 route with no thoughts of separating back out in the future), the reliability is key. Dropped routes (particularly early am) are frustrating as they occur without notice, canceling out the benefits of taking an early bus to avoid traffic.

    Secondly, as you know, Watertown is reliant solely on bus service. The main hub of Watertown yard is problematic in several areas of amenities and maintenance. It says it has a bike rack…I assume they mean the one that has been broken since pre-pandemic. Or the trash overflowing from the metal oil drums that people think are trash cans but aren’t, leading to litter everywhere. Finally, the lack of a fare machine means that I have to go to Back Bay station once a month to load my Charlie Card with my employer transit benefit debit card. The lack of a fare machine results in a disproportionate number of people feeding cash into the machine (when it’s working …I’ve gotten at least 3 free rides in the last few months due to inoperable on bus fare machines). People reloading cards on board creates delays…leading to reliability issues. These seem like basic improvements that will help both reliability and user satisfaction at Watertown Yard.

    Busses make Watertown work…and we deserve safe and reliable service.

  15. Thanks for this thoughtful post about bus service! I live in Brighton, and I agree that reliability is more important than frequency — I would much rather know that a bus is coming every twenty minutes and be able to plan for that then expect it every fifteen and in fact get it every thirty.

    One thing that would make the wait easier and more accessible for riders is to ensure that stops are clearly marked and have benches for those who cannot stand for long periods of time waiting for the bus. I currently live along the 64 route, where a misleading bus shelter and bench remain at a stop that is no longer part of the route, while the bus stop along the new route has no bus shelter or bench, and only recently got signage to indicate its location. It’s much easier to wait for a longer period of time in comfort and certainty than to stand optimistically at a stop you’re not certain is correct!

  16. Given the plans I saw early in the process of revising the schedule, with the elimination of the #74 on the list, I was pleased to see that it was retained, hopefully for the duration. As Irene Fairley indicates, I am one of the seniors who relies upon frequency to avoid standing out in snow or rain waiting for infrequent buses to and from Belmont. With the present frequency, in addition to the improved routing, that is currently avoidable. Thank you for all you do for all of us.

  17. I rode the bus 73 and 75 bus to Red Line most weekdays for 20 years. I bought a car when 73 service became unreliable in 2018, briefly went back to the bus in 2019, and then drove most days during the pandemic. I would like to go back to commuting by bus + Red Line, but it seems much less likely I’ll get to work on time by that route now than it was 10 years ago. Being understaffed by more than 300 bus drivers for years seems like a crazy plan. Can MBTA pay hiring bonuses to attract more applicants? Can MBTA sponsor a program with the schools to help high school kids get their Commercial Drivers License, to build a bigger pool of potential applicants?

  18. Thank you for delving into this important subject. As a long-time frequent 57 bus rider from Brighton to Kenmore Square and back, I can say that it seems impossible for planners to derive a consistent and reliable spacing and scheduling, especially during peak times. Lately, the Realtime data is not even posted, so one doesn’t know if the next bus is in one minute or twenty. As you mentioned in your post, less frequent trips run accurately with Realtime info available would be preferable to long delays, then two buses showing up together driving in tandem.

  19. I was never a big bus rider until recently, when I threw out my hip in a nasty way and long walks became difficult. I find lot of things about the service really good, but the worst thing by far is how early the schedule ends, with the very last buses (and Ts) typically going around 1AM and a five hour void after that.

    There’s been a lot of hubbub about Boston nightlife lately, and it seems to me this MBTA nighttime void is one of the biggest issues that doesn’t get attention. Even TWO trips spread through this part of the schedule on major routes (say, a 2:30 AM and a 4:00 AM) would do an immense amount of good for people who can’t get around easily at night. As it is now, you can’t really plan around the void, it just completely controls what you can do.

  20. Thanks for paying attention to the unglamorous workhorse of transit—buses.

    Having reliable, predictable service is hugely important.

    Please keep fighting for bus lanes and bus-priority lights. The bus lane on Mount Auburn has been a game-changer in making the 71 and 73 much more reliable! There are far fewer instances of multiple buses being “stacked” so that one bus is hugely late and crowded and the following bus is earlier than expected and empty.

    Despite the noticeably less frequent service on the 73, the greater predictability means that I am nonetheless seldom late for work.

    I am so grateful that you pay attention and apply intelligent analysis to these issues!

      1. The bus lanes are great (when there are no cars in them). But the 73 is much less reliable now, with lower scheduled service, than in the past. Used to be that buses running close together in tandem was only in rush-hour, now it happens at unpredictable times with no info or apology given.

  21. I live 2 blocks from Bill G above, and my office is also near his, ~2 block from Kendall. I also take the 73 or 75 to the red line, 2-3 days / week lately. I would go in more if these were more reliable and a little more frequent at peak times.

    Yes, Will, the apps help tremendously. I’m lucky enough to have the flexiblity of adjusting my time to match T disruptions, both big and small. But no-shows for bus runs (gray, with crossed-out text in the “Transit” app) are especially bad, since you may not know until you’re on your way to the bus stop.

    Many email alerts for the bus are not especially enlightening. What does “20 min delay” mean anyway? All runs? Just one? If all runs are 20 min behind schedule, frequency would still be the same.

    I’m glad you are “one of us”, a fellow 73 + red line rider. You get it.

  22. For me – as you and others have said – reliability is my biggest concern. I am not a priority / equity rider – but a major deterrent for me taking the bus is the fear that I’ll be waiting at a stop for 20 minutes, no bus will show up at the indicated time, and then I’ll have to wait another 20 minutes, hoping that next bus will actually show up (I’ve had this happen at ~9 PM, 71 bus) . I can’t imagine the stress of having to deal with that routinely if I had no other options.
    I would have no problem waiting 20 minutes if I knew there was a high probability of the bus showing up. Alternatively, if I knew there was a reliable source of information I could check to see if the bus was *really* coming in 20 minutes or not, that would be solve the problem (or i.e. the display in the terminals were accurate about skipped buses).
    Thank you for digging in to this very important issue!

  23. I gave up owning a car forty years ago and since then I have used the MBTA, the commuter rail and Amtrak.. Buses can only go as fast as the other traffic on the streets, and I find the Transit app to be reliable, and when a bus is going to be delayed because of traffic I walk if possible. This makes me a healthier and happier octogenarian than many car drivers.

  24. If part of the problem with hiring bus drivers is lack of a CDL, then possibly the MBTA could offer training in this. Many commercial trucking companies offer this as a hiring incentive. It seems an extra cost, but what a waste of time and resources regarding some of the 10% who apply, pass various screenings and our refused employment due to lack of a CDL ( the screenings that the MBTA does initially are part of basic training courses for a CDL anyway). Costs be considered, it could attract more applicants in the long run while retaining the 10% you mentioned. Maybe the MBTA can get creative with this. And on reliability I agree,, yet consider that on some longer routes reliability may depend on frequency.

  25. Before Covid I used public transport often, both bus and T. During Covid, when I did not walk, I used Uber. I just got used to using Uber, so now I do not use public transport at all. When the weather gets better, I plan to go back to at least some use of public transport, including the bus.

  26. As retired people, we use the T (73 bus and red line ) for recreation – theatre, a movie, music, art exhibit, or other event in Cambridge or downtown. As we’ve started (again) to go to more of those things – we are still masking, We know more people now sick with covid in the last month (#11 ) than ever during the pandemic – it’s still with us. We are choosing to drive places as one way of avoiding possible contagion, including for a trip to DC earlier this month. We’ve used the T infrequently since the pandemic started, and mostly just to Harvard Sq. The frequent infrastructure problems resulting in delays, shuttles etc, have not encouraged us to resume use as previously., One problem that is not new awas that returning home around 9:30 or 10 from something in Harvard Square, the 73 bus was often very delayed – 45 min wait — , while we watched several 71 buses go by. So the last time we went to Harvard /sq at night, we paid for parking which we’ve never done and probably won’t again. I don’t pretend to have deep knowledge of why MA/Boston has had so many problems with the T – it certainly seems as if many things have been mismanaged and underfunded for years. Every time we go to visit family in Washington DC, and use the metro, as we did earlier this month, we are aware of the contrast – it functions very well. In NYC we had the same good experience in November and last March. What is it about MA and Boston that makes it so hard to get this right?

  27. It’s finally time to focus on the real bus problem. We don’t all work in Boston, and no one has time to travel into/out of Boston as the central hub. Work from home has returned up to 2.5 hours of commuting back to our lives. But for those still commuting and for those planning to return hybrid, transportation is needed to Brookline, Burlington, Assembly Row, Worcester, Newton, Waltham, north shore.

  28. If the bus near my apartment were more frequent and/or more reliable, I would use it more. It doesn’t have to be more reliable if it simply came more often; since it comes only 1-3 times per hour, then it needs to be far more reliable than it actually is in order to be a realistic transit option. This is doubly true for evening events; as a young woman, I am simply not going to use the bus if it will mean waiting in another neighborhood in the dark for 40 minutes for the bus to show afterward. I understand there’s a death spiral of “it doesn’t come frequently/reliably enough, therefore I don’t use it, therefore ridership is down, therefore service is reduced,” but the city ought to invest more in the MBTA system. Low and middle income folks need the system to function well.

  29. Both reliability and frequency are important. Many people do use buses as their main transportation, not just for work. We need to be able to get where we need to go on time. I have never owned a car and have no plans to get one. The apps and bus lanes have made a big difference, but more is needed to connect us to areas other than Boston and Cambridge.

    1. It is very disturbing to hear young men making loud and very profane remarks about women and often directed at young women on the bus (#57). I never speak up as there are many young men and only one of me. Plus I am 72 years old.

  30. I would like some thought put into transfers. I take the 70 and work in Harvard Sq. If I leave early enough to avoid the snarls the 70 gets into, I sometimes ride to Central and take the red line. So I would welcome a predictable and reasonable transfer to the 71. Better yet would be extending the 71 line to Waltham which would give people additional options.

  31. I realize with the advent of work-at-home jobs, and the complete lack of support for Mothers who cannot work due to no or far too expensive child care, bus service, particularly the 55 is not what it was before Covid (Although we still see deaths by Covid daily!) so because the 55 only currently runs to Copley, not Park Street as it did, I am looking forward when the T will extend the service back to Park Street, so I can once again shop downtown on Summer Street, Washington Street and the like.

  32. I take the 66 every day to Nubian for work and live in Brighton. The reliability of that line is simply not there. Sometimes I’m waiting 3 minutes, sometimes 40. It’s not conducive for a normal work schedule. I’ve been passed by so many busses because they’re too full to accommodate any more people. The 66 needs to be a larger bus (the double attached style) and to come more frequently. It claims to come every 12 minutes but we all know that isn’t true at all.

  33. I may be wrong, but phone apps to let you know when the next bus will come do not work well since there are no transponders on the buses to track where they are. I asked the supervisor at Kennmore and he confirmed this. The apps just appear to give you the time based on the MBTA bus schedule.

  34. Hi Will, thank you for all of your work updating the public on the current data and providing a space for us to comment on our experiences.
    I take the 65 into Longwood and find the morning commute to be smooth and reliable. The evening commute is a different story. The bus does typically follow the scheduled arrival times, however, it is at max capacity before it reaches the Longwood Ave stop. It is common to have to wait for a second or even third bus.

  35. Pandemic related travel pattern changes have made it even harder to draw accurate conclusions from averages and quantitative data analysis.

    For example, I take some combination of the 57, 501, 86 bus, and the B or C train, almost every weekday. On Mon Tues Wed Thurs the 501 is often standing room only and on Fridays there’s usually maybe 1/3 or 1/2 the ridership. The 57 has been so full lately on Wednesdays and Thursday evenings that I’ve had trouble disembarking at my stop in Brighton Center. Mornings on the 57 are sometimes at crush capacity and other times I’ve gotten a seat at 8am. B line outbound around 5:30 has been so full we’ve left 10 or 15 people standing at each BU stop. The difference between boarding and deboarding 40 people vs 10 people makes even more of a difference in raw minutes than bus lanes. It makes it even harder to plan a bus route that goes at the exact times each weekday or each weekend.

    We’ve got to incorporate lived experience, anecdotal evidence, and all the qualitative data we can get if we want to draw accurate conclusions about transit.

    It would also be great if we found more ways to track latent demand. We can’t just look at trips people are taking. For example, let’s say someone really wants to go to a destination located along the 86 bus. But they don’t want to wait 45 minutes at night when they’re done. They might go to a completely different location. Measuring ridership, or even measuring car trips and bike trips, won’t capture that information.

    Transportation planners often glare at me when I say things like this but I feel its important if we want to make good and accurate decisions and not just follow quantitative data analysis wherever it leads us.

  36. The situation at the Alewife parking garage and station has pushed me to using the bus more often and parking on streets near the 73. Wish there was a plan to deal with Alewife – it has been a disintegrating for so many years.

  37. It is my understanding that one of the biggest challenges that the T is having with hiring more bus operators is that the pay is not competitive enough to recruit enough new applicants. MBTA bus operators are paid less than someone working at a coffee shop in Boston. Given the high level of skill and responsibility that operating a bus requires, it is no wonder why people are not applying to work for such low pay.

  38. The job of the MBTA bus service planner is a study in fighting over table scraps. Liberal Mecca my foot! So, basically, after we cut the 74 if you live in Belmont and want to go to the Fresh Pond shopping area you have to walk to Cambridge and catch the 78, or first go to Harvard Square and catch a bus out from there!?

  39. From Feb 2021-Mar 2022, I did a 15-month independent research project on the MBTA. The main purpose of the research was to write a series of tour guide books (the first of four due out this year), but I also made note of other issues. I’m a travel consultant. The main three issues are lack of maintenance, lack of workers and not enough training for new workers, so accidents are more frequent. It’s mainly the subway, but buses are more known to be late or skipped, because of no workers.

  40. Thank you for your attention to this important topic, Will.

    For almost 40 years, I commuted six days a week to Cambridge via the 78 and 74/75 buses, and occasionally the 84 or 62 plus the redline from Alewife. After I retired, until covid, I commuted to Cambridge 5 days a week all year round using the same lines. Now given the reduction of service on the 78 and 84 routes, the occasional lack of reliability of the 78, and the fact that 74/75 go only as far as the train station and the post office, I often seek other forms of transportation. The failure of the MBTA to restore service to Belmont Ctr, which was a safe an accessible location and where there was both a shelter and a place to sit while waiting is distressing. There were always people embarking and disembarking at the Center and numerous people from the Belmont Center area commented at the public meetings that they had stopped using the bus because of the distance and safety issues posed by the new departure and terminus location. When the MBTA’s own testing revealed that the new higher buses would fit under the railroad underpass into the Center, the MBTA said that service into Belmont Center would be restored. It hasbeen restored. Although the new shorter route takes less time, the bus then sits, parked, waiting to return to Cambridge.

    1. Belmont Center is a trap some mornings- you can drive in, but you can’t drive out. At least that’s how I remember it pre-SARS-2. Put the commuter line underground, get rid of the bridge and install a rotary.

  41. Yes, table scraps. I submit we haven’t had a Democratic Party since eighty eight after which Morris et. al. had a useful tool to perpetrate his triangulation and hollow-out the party’s moral core. We have very capable caretakers of the status quo of what we delude ourselves into thinking is the Democratic Party. I have been countered that without Clintonian Triangulation we would have had more decades of Republican deciders in the Executive Branch. Well, maybe, maybe not, but a) in the long run a morally intact Democratic Party is a better check on the Republican Party and on discourse b) both parties have long recognized Republican shrinkage even without CT and c) here we are with all the wealth of the world and it’s shunted to those who by financial fiat have taken ownership of the political process.

    We have a niggardly political and economic structure that gives its weary, but noble workers a just barely functioning public transportation system with crumbling tunnels, long waits in hot, or cold stations that perform double duty as public assistance shelters. I needn’t go on.

  42. Thank you, Will, for working so hard on this. In my survey reply, I chose the 57 bus as the one I use most, but it is a toss up between that and the 65. Increasingly I use the 65 more. It is my morning bus (I get off in Brookline to catch the C line to work). At night, I usually take any train to Kenmore then go upstairs to check out the situation. More often than not these days there is a huge crowd waiting for the 57, or I have just missed it and there is a long wait and of course the phone app is not working; an increasing problem. I am lucky that I can take the 65 to Brighton Center; a longer ride but I always get a seat. Because of 57 bus issues, to include no bus then two in a row, I sometimes take the B line to where it crosses the 65 bus route. I may get off and catch the 65, or walk home. The 86 bus is another option. To me reliability and frequency are two sides of the transit coin. If the service is not going to be reliable, at least have more trips so that we can be sure to catch at least -one- of them. But, reliability is ultimately the key. If folks really are unsure as to whether the bus will show up, they may drive if they can, make a job change, or even do something as extreme as move to another state.

    Kind regards,

  43. Will, as an amendment to the above, do you think the T could install one of those schedule boards with timing upstairs in the Kenmore busway? They installed one at the 57 bus stop in front of the CVS in Allston and it tells you when the next 57 and 66 buses will be arriving. I love that thing. Thank you, Kim

  44. I take the No. 1 bus and it is a straight shot from Nubian to Harvard. My greatest annoyance is seeing the spacing fail when two buses pile up on each other. Even three! Technology could keep them apart.

  45. A positive comment about bus service. A few years ago the 75 was re-routed so it no longer ran on Fresh Pond Parkway at all, and went into Harvard Square on Huron Ave. The 72 (along Huron Ave) was subsequently reduced in service. The resulting combination is actually much better service overall. The 75 used to have extreme delays when it hit FPP at rush hour and the 72 used to run erratically. Now, the 75 comes every half hour and is very reliable. An excellent consolidation.

    1. Yes! By avoiding the massive back ups at the Fresh Pond rotaries the 75 became a pleasure to ride. Now if they can improve frequency.

  46. I take the 71/73 to Harvard for commuting at least 3 times a week, which used to be 5 times a week pre-pandemic. I also rely on these buses on the weekend for social life etc. Yes, the bus lanes have made a huge improvement! The biggest problem in my commute is the Harvard busway. The estimated arrival times always seem wrong because they appear to get tripped up discerning inbound vs outbound buses, so you never really know how long you will be waiting down there. As someone else pointed out, this can be a problem at night if it is late and you don’t know if you should continue standing down there by yourself or give up and take a cab or walk.
    There is one thing I am curious about and cannot find an answer for…when will the lower busway reopen? All I can find is “Regular service resumed on August 29, 2021. Both busways are now open.”. This is not true. Lower busway remains closed, so our apps can’t tell when a bus is really arriving, it adds additional time for the bus to go around Harvard Sq on its way out, and I am assuming one reason for it being closed is that the buses are not accessible to wheelchairs now that they’re no longer user the overhead wire trolleys?
    Is that the reason the busway remains closed, why is there no info about this on the MBTA site (or maybe I am just really bad at finding it), and when will it be in use again to unclog the upper busway?
    Thank you!

  47. I’m a regular 57 and 86 rider near Brighton Center, and I’m thankful you’re taking the time to share all this info with us. Personally, I’d love to see more frequent service, particularly on the 86 line, but understand the challenges currently in place. I would love to see Brighton Center and the surrounding area redesigned to make riding the bus and biking more pleasant.

    Biking is rough as lanes disappear randomly and at the most dangerous parts of rides, through intersections. And I’ve found the bus stops in the area to be lacking in terms of amenities – signage, lights, benches, shelters, you name it.

    My partner and I are car free and love that we can live that way in Brighton, but I’d like to see more attention paid and more considerations given to those without cars in the area. It feels like car ownership is steadily becoming more and more the default for folks around here.

  48. I haven’t been able to read through the entirety of this detailed post right now, though I greatly appreciate the scope of information provided and will try to find the time to engage with more of it later. Having just filled out your survey as requested, however, I wanted to provide a little more information about the specific questions asked, and the answers I gave (as an example/datapoint).

    Prior to the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, I rode the 57 bus to and from my 9-5 office job each weekday. I’ve been a Boston area commuter for about eleven years (cumulatively), via both bus and subway at various times, and riding the 57 has by far been the most inconvenient and uncomfortable route I’ve ever had; so consistently backed up that at times it almost seems to have no schedule whatsoever, and so overcrowded that riders would fall out of the doors on both ends of the bus when they would open at each stop. I’m not trying to cast blame or simply complain; I understand that bus planning, traffic management, and workforce distribution are all highly complicated systems to juggle, and I am grateful to live in a place where public transit is widely available. This is simply an attempt to provide context and data.

    I was required to return to on-site work only a few months into the pandemic (well before we had a vaccine), and being both a cautious person and someone with quite a few medically vulnerable people in my life, I began commuting by bike to avoid risk. (I was lucky enough to find ways to make this feasible in all but the most inclement of weather.) While I’m generally much more comfortable taking transit now, at least as far as health concerns go, I’ve found that the experience of riding the 57 is so uncomfortable and inconvenient that I continue to avoid it unless my bike is out of commission or the weather is very dangerous (and my bar for that is higher than it maybe should be). I wish this were not the case; while I value my cycling for many reasons (exercise, environmental sustainability, flexibility), it has its dangers, and of course I’m well aware that it’s not an option (or a desirable one) for many (most) people. Public transit is deeply essential – and improving it would be a significant net positive for our community, since more appealing transit would hopefully lead to lower congestion, which would in turn improve the transit experience (for starters).

    I don’t know if I’m a useful or common example, but that’s my experience, for what it’s worth.

    Your survey specifically asked an either/or question about prioritizing frequency or reliability. While I think enough frequency can essentially BE reliability (if there’s a bus every ten-fifteen minutes, missing one for whatever reason is less significant), I chose reliability. Some reduction in service is just the reality right now, for reasons you no doubt go through in detail above; therefore, I put great importance on being able to plan around a reasonably consistent schedule, or at the very least, timely updates.

    When I have taken transit in the recent past, my biggest concern has been this: when there are significant delays in my bus route (the 57, again; I take others on occasion, but rarely by such necessity), the “predicted arrivals” function on the MBTA website goes down every time. With no way of knowing when a bus may arrive, a passenger without other options is thus forced to wait for an indeterminate amount of time; if the weather is, say, dangerously cold, and the bus stop in question is exposed, that passenger does not have the option to find an indoor space to shelter until closer to the time when the bus might arrive. An elderly or disabled person may be unable to find a place to sit for that time. Etc. This is inconvenient at best, but hazardous at worst. (And of course, it hits especially hard for those whose employment/other survival considerations make choosing not to travel under given conditions impossible.)

    I’d like to see changes/upgrades to the MBTA’s tracking software and general dissemination of information be a top priority. Ideally, we’d all have frequent service available to and from all areas in the city, but barring that, knowing what IS available and being able to plan accordingly seems paramount to me.

    Thank you again for the wealth of information, and for requesting feedback from your constituents. (For reference, I live in Brighton – Ward 22, Precinct 11.)

    1. Allie,
      Thank you for being sensitive to the MBTA bus and subway riders who may not have the option to ride a bike or stand at a bus stop for an indeterminate amount of time. We can’t create a car-free or “reduced car” society (such as taking away parking to create bike and bus lanes) without reliable transportation everywhere for those who can’t walk easily (or are not safe standing alone late at night or in the weather), and able-ist assumptions are rampant in the planning of bus stops and transfer areas.

  49. I live in Brighton, and where I live, I have access to only buses, which are subject to the same delays as any vehicle in traffic. Express buses on the Turnpike can get stuck. Also, express buses run only at certain time. My other main mode of getting around is the 57 bus, which can take 45 minutes just to get to Kenmore Square.. And on weekends, it runs very rarely. If I get in my car, getting to Downtown can take 10-15 minutes. If I attempted to ride a bicycle downtown, I’d arrive sweaty, smelly, and hardly in a condition to socialize or walk into an office.
    Let’s face it. The Brighton Landing station was a vanity project of whatshisname at New Balance. It was never really about providing more transit to the masses. It has no parking, and it has no reliable, convenient T means to get there. I guess you can walk a few blocks from a 70 bus stop, or the 86 bus will drop you relatively close. However, from where I live in Brighton, neither of those methods is by any means convenient. How ironic that many of us in Brighton can’t conveniently get to the “Brighton” Landing station.

  50. What if we made bus riding fun again? Then ridership and hiring might increase and some of the challenges would be diminished. In the 1980s, Paris had a big PR campaign for the metro. I remember riding the metro then felt fun and trendy. We were happy to be there. Bus-riding can be social and fun. We had a real fellowship on the number 60 bus I used to ride in Rhode Island. Let’s make that fun and fellowship happen here.

  51. While I appreciate the informative and data driven nature of this post, any statistics related to ridership should be taken with a grain of salt. On the 57 and 501 alone, I frequently witness riders get onto buses for free. In any ridership analyses, these riders do not exist and are not counted. Sometimes, fare boxes are broken and refuse to accept cash or scan Charlie cards (fyi, the fare boxes seem to hate cash and are intent on never collecting any). Sometimes, drivers wave riders on in hopes of getting their buses moving again or they do so out of sympathy, frustration, or fear. Sometimes, riders know they do not have sufficient fare and just keep walking confident that no one will stop them. Whatever the reason for these deviations, know that the data do not tell the whole story and acknowledge that free rides have serious financial implications for a struggling MBTA. Not to mention the frustration justifiably felt by riders like me who actually pay to ride the bus and subsidize the freeloaders. So before the MBTA raises fares yet again in exchange for even worse service, maybe consider making all riders pay fares, or alternatively, let everyone ride for free to be equitable.

    1. Yes. There is definitely some count lost to not all people tapping in. I think that whenever the data show crowding one should assume that the data understates ridership: People are mostly to get in without tapping precisely when it is most crowded.

    2. I agree with your post. I wish there were a fare machine at the BC T stop to load my senior Charlie card. Probably too much to ask since it’s been this way for years. For me to walk over to the Riverside stop is a bit much. I don’t always go into Boston/ Cambridge so can’t load the card at Kenmore or Harvard Sq. for example. The drivers sometimes wave me along when I take out bills to load the card. There is also the possibility I could be thrown if the bus driver starts as I’m loading. While I am concerned, I don’t entirely feel guilty because sometimes I don’t execute the bus/T immediate fare box correctly and have lost money!!! Can’t seem to load the card correctly sometimes and am zapped. Not going to get a “smart” phone just for this. I may be in the minority because I see about 95% of the riders with faces glued to their phones. Could be the majority of riders have a monthly pass and my few dollars are insignificant.

  52. I realize that the 72, 74 and 75 have and/or had some overlap in routing, but where they don’t, they serve different areas that are way too far to walk even by svelte New England brahman standards. Why does the MBTA and the survey that linked to this comment page lump them as 72/74/75? What’s the inside baseball on that and do Huron Ave residents have outsized pull/ weight?

    1. I’m the one responsible for lumping them together in this post — I do that just to simplify the historical comparison as load as shifted among those routes. The shifting among the routes (ultimately leading to the dropping of the 72) was a series of changes that the MBTA did very carefully and publicly to benefit as many riders as possible with finite service.

  53. I have wondered why articulated busses aren’t used on routes that have especially heavy ridership (57). At first I wondered if maneuvering the busses in tight city streets was the problem, but the BU shuttle uses them to good effect.

  54. The issue of peak demand in public transit is always a challenge. Other systems (Washington, DC, for example) discount pricing for off-peak riders or low-ridership routes as a way to increase transit utilization and reduce the pressure on peaks. I recall you have noted in the past that MBTA’s fare system isn’t able to do differentiated pricing at this point. Is it being studied, and could it be added? Long-term, it seems like it might be a very cost-effective way to better use the infrastructure we already have.

  55. Regarding the choice between reliability and frequency, I think that frequent enough service makes reliability much less important. You should be able to show up to a bus stop whenever needed and be sure that a bus will arrive within 15 minutes, regardless of the schedule. With all the bus bunching and delays it is very common to spend more time waiting for the bus than spent traveling on it. I have personally observed many potential riders giving up after 25+ minutes of waiting. This would be embarrassing in other parts of the world that treat transit service seriously. It will never be as attractive an option as driving when you have to wait 30 minutes for a 20 minute ride.

  56. Throughout my life, there have been many jobs I have not bothered to apply to because I had no car. It often became the number one major factor in my job search, which always felt wrong. Being qualified, a good mutual fit, and whether one can make a difference were factors I always imagined to be more important than location. I’ve done work in several fields but when I was looking for jobs teaching art I tried to keep a list of schools that were too far away, especially with having start times at 7:45 or 8 am, ones that were two hours away were impossible, and 1hr a half not reasonable for someone who’s default body clock is set to night owl. My list often included specific areas in Hyde Park (commuter rail), the far ends of Newton, and Needham. Places that seemed so close by and yet, inaccessible. And further away Weymouth, Melrose, Franklin, Randolph, Winchester, Braintree, Brockton, Rockland, Hanover, Pembroke, Avon, Randolph, Holbrook, East Bridgewater, Bridgewater, Taunton, Duxbury, Marblehead, etc. My radius seemed very small which meant that I was competing with tons of other people for the same jobs. When I couldn’t find work I was often depressed that I didn’t have a car so I had more options. When I applied for non-teaching arts work, sometimes art museums or galleries or other work it was even harder. There are very few art jobs and most of them don’t pay enough for me to own a car.

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