ATTLEBORO — Gov. Charlie Baker’s decision to lift most of the coronavirus restrictions on businesses didn’t exactly bring the return of a crowded, congested and chaotic commute to Boston on Tuesday.
It was the first workday after the reopening declaration, which took effect Saturday, but there was no mad rush at Attleboro’s downtown MBTA station as the 7:34 a.m. train arrived.
About 30 people boarded from a nearly empty platform.
And it seemed that most of those waiting for the train had been the ones taking it throughout the pandemic — essential workers.
That group included one hospital employee who said he’s noticed a gradual increase in riders over the last few weeks but the train is still far from full.
And it was far from full on Tuesday morning.
On Friday, Baker rescinded most coronavirus restrictions for businesses due to the sharp decline in cases and the slow but steady rise in vaccinations.
From the week ending May 1 through the week ending May 29, the number of cases per week dropped from 7,668 to 1,723, a reduction of 77.5 percent.
In addition, confirmed coronavirus deaths have reached their lowest level since the second week of the pandemic. For the week ending May 29, there were 46 confirmed deaths. For the week ending March 28, 2020 there were 43.
Meanwhile, the number of state residents fully vaccinated has gone up every week by jumps of 3.8 percent to 4.5 percent, or, as expressed in numbers, from 227,889 per week to as many as 314,070 per week.
As of Sunday, the grand total of individuals fully vaccinated stood at 3,653,148, which equals 52.45 percent of the state’s 6,964,383 residents. All those numbers indicate coronavirus is finally on the wane after taking the lives of at least 17,508 Bay Staters and making 661,115 sick.
Those numbers could go up by 364 deaths and 45,830 cases which, for the moment, have been designated as “probable.”
Another worker who’s been commuting since the pandemic began is Adam Luisi, 31, of Attleboro, a security guard in Boston.
He’s enjoyed the last 15 months of commuting because there’s never any competition for a seat on the train.
“Before the pandemic I always had to stand up,” he said of his trip to Boston. “Now I always get a seat.”
And it appears he’ll be getting a seat for a least a little while longer.
Maggie Roberts, 20, lives in North Attleboro.
She’s a junior at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. who just started commuting to Boston last week after landing an internship at an environmental engineering company.
She’s noticed increasing numbers of employees at her work place and passengers on the train.
While the train is still not full, it seems to be headed that way. “There are a lot more people in the office and on the train every day,” she said.
One rider, Jennifer Wilhelm, 45, of North Attleboro said it was her first day returning to the train.
Wilhelm is the director of financial aid at Fisher College in Boston and said she’s been working from home since March 2020. And she’s commuted by car into the city one or two days a week.
Wilhelm said the train becomes more convenient when the commute by car exceeds 90 minutes, and that threshold has been reached. That indicates more people are heading for the office by way of the highway. She said she enjoyed working from home and that she was just as productive.
Commuting, whether by car or train, takes time, so one big plus about working from home was the three hours of travel time she was spared.
However, now there’s a need to talk to students face to face and prepare for the fall semester, so it’s back on the train, Wilhelm said.
Kevin Beagan, 60, of North Attleboro works for the state’s Division of Insurance. He’s been on the train every workday since the pandemic began.
Beagan described ridership during the first two months of the pandemic as “dead.”
He estimated the ridership now at about 20 percent. But that level has been reached just in the last 60 days, he said.
“Even two months ago it was about 5 percent,” he said.
Beagan’s estimate seems pretty accurate judging, by vehicles parked in the MBTA lot.
It has a capacity of 780.
After the 7:34 left the station a reporter counted 157 vehicles in the lot, which means it was 20 percent full.
While the numbers are slowly rising, the usual commuter crush has yet to return, he said.
“The streets in Boston are still pretty quiet,” Beagan said.