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Transit Officials Plan A Coronavirus-Safe MBTA As The State Reopens

BOSTON (CBS) -- Trains were so infrequent at the Natick Commuter Rail Station Thursday a crew was able to work right on the tracks. In front of the Back Bay MBTA stop, there were more pigeons gathered than people.

As Massachusetts businesses prepare to reopen in coming weeks, managers wonder if the workforce will be ready to jump back into public transit.

The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce has asked Massachusetts transportation officials for a solid reopening plan.

"They've got to get that out there," said Chamber CEO James Rooney. "So that people, employers and employees can plan and know that, for example, if I take the Orange Line every day, what's the schedule going to be like? What are the limitations going to be like, so I can make informed choices."

In a virtual conference hosted by the Chamber, MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak vowed to keep up the T's intense cleanings every four hours.

"On an ongoing basis, we have budgeted over a million dollars a week to continue this program," he said.

Poftak said his team is still working out how many trains would run and how often. State officials say they need to assess the balance between bringing back ridership while still limiting the number of people on each train. They're asking companies to continue having people work from home when possible in the long-term and exploring ways to keep traffic down.

"This may be the moment that we can put bus lanes in," Poftak said.

"It's probably not going to all switch on overnight," said transportation advocate Chris Dempsey, who heads Transportation for Massachusetts.

He said federal aid money will help the T come back over the next six to eight months.

"The problems will arise if we're not back to full strength by then, if ridership is down, if other tax revenues are down," he said. "Then we're going to have a real financial hurdle in the next year that comes."

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