SCITUATE — Threats of cuts to MBTA ferries, bus lines and commuter rail service drew crowds to the Scituate Greenbush commuter rail station as demonstrators protested what they say would be detrimental effects on the economy and the environment of several communities. Protesters also said cuts would pose a real problem for students and others who depend on the train to get to school and work.
“The Greenbush line provides essential transportation to students from the South Shore both heading into private high schools and area colleges,” said Karen Canfield, chair of the Scituate Select Board. “Without public transportation, these educational opportunities would not be open to many residents. Also, the cost of a second automobile, or parking in the city, prohibits access to jobs in Greater Boston without public transportation options. For those with the option of driving, the impact on congestion and pollution by reducing train service would be a giant step backward for our region.”
Canfield joined a host of other local and state representatives at the recent sunrise “Save Greenbush” rally. The MBTA has proposed temporary cuts that include eliminating ferries altogether and running fewer subway trains, commuter rail trains and buses with an eye toward closing an estimated $580 million budget shortfall.
“The proposed service cuts to the Greenbush line and the boat will have an impact far beyond the South Shore region,” Cohasset Select Board Chair Diane Kennedy said. “While South Shore residents will be personally challenged, particularly those who do not have cars, the idea of thousands of additional cars on the already-choked roads to and from Boston is impossible to comprehend.”
Pre-pandemic, there were over 6,000 daily users of the ferry and 3,000 Greenbush users, Kennedy continued. The environmental impact of thousands of additional cars is significant and goes against the goals of the state to build a first-class transit system, she added.
Boudreau pointed out that the state has been pushing for transit-oriented development for years, and now they are going to take it away and inconvenience a lot of people.
“This will affect our rezoning plans for North Scituate, absolutely,” he said.
The communities along the Greenbush line have all responded to the state’s encouragement of transit-oriented development by updating zoning to accommodate such growth, Canfield said.
The lack of revenue for the MBTA is due to the lack of ridership, which is primarily because more people are working from home, or have lost their jobs, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“But what happens when the pandemic is over?” Boudreau said. “The ripple effect is going to be massive.”
Cohasset’s recent Master Plan identified that one-third of working Cohasset residents commute to Boston – most on public transit, Kennedy said.
“In addition, Cohasset, and the Commonwealth, have invested significantly in transit-oriented development at the Cohasset station – to provide both retail centers and affordable housing," she said.
State Sen. Patrick O’Connor of Weymouth said he understands what the MBTA is dealing with, but that the proposed changes would eliminate too much service. In the past, he has said he thinks there's a chance the "temporary" cuts would become permanent.
“Our message is let’s preserve the service, albeit on a scaled back level,' he said. "And we want to make sure all the systems are in place so we can scale it back up. We want them to work with us.”
He said the Greenbush line was at its highest point ever in terms of ridership prior to the pandemic.
“It was exceeding projections for the past year, if not two years,” he said. “We were talking with the MBTA about adding cars. The pandemic has been a big blow to transportation in general.”
O’Connor believes a strong case has been made for preserving some level of service on the South Shore.
“We fought really hard to get transportation options here and we’re not going to give them up,” he said.
Protesters encouraged anyone who takes the train to take a selfie and post it with #SaveTheGreenbush.
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