HINGHAM — As potential cuts to the MBTA ferry and commuter rail loom closer, local elected officials are amping up their efforts to preserve T service in the area and are encouraging residents to do the same.
“We have to do everything we possibly can to ensure that they don’t go offline,” said State Senator Patrick O’Connor.
On Tuesday, O’Connor and State Representatives Joan Meschino and Jamie Murphy called into a Hingham Board of Selectmen meeting to discuss plans to oppose potential cuts to local T service.
Earlier this fall, the MBTA said it would examine possible service cuts as a way of bridging a significant budget gap spawned by low ridership during the pandemic. The Greenbush commuter rail line, which has two stops in Hingham, has been identified as a candidate for service reductions, and the Hingham/Hull ferry could see fewer rides or even be eliminated.
Meschino, who represents Hull and parts of Hingham, Scituate and Cohasset, said the T has determined the Greenbush line and ferry as serving communities that are not “transit-critical.” But, she said, this stems from too narrow of an analysis.
“We’re looking to counter that false narrative of ‘it’s a luxury transit.’ It’s actually critical transit for many of us,” she said.
Many Hingham and Hull residents have said they rely on the ferry primarily to commute into Boston, with some saying they moved here specifically because of that service and would likely move away if the ferry is canceled.
O’Connor said, before the pandemic, the Greenbush line was usually at 98 to 104 percent capacity during peak ridership times. Last week, Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack told him the line is now at about 10 or 12 percent of typical ridership. O’Connor said many riders will surely return as the pandemic eases.
O’Connor said he’s “completely opposed” to service cuts of any kind. But, if the T has to make some reductions to deal with funding shortages, they should avoid even temporarily eliminating any of their normal services. Shutting down the ferry entirely would make it much harder to restart than if the T temporarily reduced the number of rides, he said.
“That may be a deathblow to both those modes of transportation. We can absolutely not allow that to happen,” O’Connor said.
Selectman Joe Fisher, who is leading up the town’s response to the potential cuts, pointed out that the ferry is the only mode of transportation from the T that allows riders to sit outside, which could help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“It’s as if the T — if they were responsible for restaurants — said ’We’re going to close all the restaurants that offer outdoor dining,” he said. “The ferry is, in my view, the gold standard for how transportation needs to be moving forward in the covid world and the post-covid world.”
The proposed cuts would lead to an increase in greenhouse gasses for communities along Route 3 and Route 93 and undermine new housing developments built specifically to be close to public transit, especially at the Hingham Shipyard, he said.
Original Source: https://www.patriotledger.com/news/20201031/south-shore-officials-advocate-for-keeping-local-t-service
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