BOSTON (CBS) — Layoffs, fare hikes and service cuts are all on the table when it comes to balancing the MBTA budget. The board met Monday to discuss a projected budget shortfall of as much as $577 million next year.

MBTA CEO/Secretary Stephanie Pollack said the coronavirus pandemic has put them in a difficult position. “I just want to say to the staff that this is probably the most difficult things that you are going to have to go through.”

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Fewer people are riding the buses, subways and trains as they continue to work from home. Ridership on the subway is at 24.5% of pre-pandemic levels; on buses it’s about 40%.

“We have a little bit of an increase heading into September and throughout September it has been relatively steady,” General Manager Steve Poftak said.

Ridership on the Commuter Rail is “significantly lower” at 12% of pre-pandemic levels. There are only about 15,000 riders during the morning rush hour, which is 8.5% of normal peak time.

Many fear any potential cuts will impact the most vulnerable.

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“A lot essential workers who may rely on transit will be completely cut off from their only viable form [of transportation] to and from work,” said one concerned person who called the Fiscal and Management and Control Board meeting via Zoom Monday.

“It’s imperative to get as much of the public’s perspective of how it will impact their lives and areas where they live,” another caller said.

Mela Miles is the Director of the T Riders Union. She was born and raised in the Nubian Square area.

“Those cuts could end up being permanent and they would severely impact people who desperately public transportation,” Miles said.

The MBTA knows they need to make cuts but they want to keep the community involved, Pollack said. “I want to say to you all as well as to the public that we are also diligent in thinking about the impacts that this might have.”

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The MBTA said the difficult decisions will be made by Dec. 7 after they thoroughly review all possible recommendations.