On Thursday, Nov. 4, the Scituate Board of Selectmen sent the following letter to the members of the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board and MassDOT Board of Directors, announcing their opposition to the MBTA’s proposed service cuts relating to the Greenbush Commuter Rail Line and Hingham-Hull ferry:
Dear Members of the Fiscal and Management Control Board and MassDOT Board of Directors:
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the “Forging Ahead” plan put forward by the MBTA. We understand the challenges faced by the MBTA due to the reduced ridership on mass transit during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, drastic cuts to the Greenbush commuter rail line, as is currently being discussed by the MBTA, will cause immediate and substantial harm to this community. Obviously, the commuter experience would be negatively impacted with many transit riders at least doubling their commute time. Commuting from the south shore by automobile has been historically difficult with overcrowded roadways and long commute times. A quality mass transit system is imperative for this area and severely curtailing a major component of that system in the commuter rail will be devastating for those commuters, but it will also have a negative effect on the community in regards to the local economy, health and wellbeing, housing, and quality of life.
The Greenbush line is an important driver for local business. Daily riders support several local businesses that operate around both the Greenbush and North Scituate commuter rail stations. These businesses are already struggling with the impacts of the COVID-19 virus and would most likely cease operations without the support of the commuter rail stations. The train also brings visitors and tourists to the Town in the summer months which local businesses throughout town are dependent on. The train is a critical part of our local transportation infrastructure and must be maintained for our economy to flourish.
As is common in many communities, housing development in Scituate has coincided with the availability of mass transit. Undoubtedly, many current residents have moved to the area due to its relative affordability and the availability of the commuter rail. With the increase in commute times from the loss of the train many homes would lose value, putting a strain on residents and on local finances. The areas of Scituate close to the train stations exhibit a dense housing pattern of modest homes, many of which are affordable for the working class and young families. The lack of this type of affordable housing has been a serious concern for the region for many years. The availability of the commuter rail and the commute times it affords makes this housing stock an attractive part of the solution to the housing shortages this region has. Future housing development would also be affected. The Town is in the final stages of approving a large mixed use development to be constructed on the MBTA parking lot at Greenbush. Several additional multi-family dwellings in the area of Greenbush are also in the planning stages and could be jeopardized by cuts to commuter rail service. The loss of an affordable, easy commuting option to Boston will make a difficult housing situation worse.
In addition to the local economic impact that cutting commuter rail service will have on the South Shore, the MBTA needs to take into account the rippling effects that this will have on the larger economy of Greater Boston. Currently, tens of thousands of office workers that populate millions of square feet of office space in downtown Boston are working remotely. The impact of this has made downtown Boston a virtual ghost town with the corresponding impact on food establishments, restaurants and downtown businesses. Where is the incentive for businesses to bring their workers back to the city if there is no way for them to get to work besides getting into their cars and driving? Without reliable, affordable public transportation these businesses will make permanent the remote model that they are currently following with the corresponding devastating impacts to all sectors of the Greater Boston economy.
The health and wellbeing of the community must also be taken into account. Better air quality from the reduced numbers of cars on the road, shorter commute times, reduced savings are all benefits to the community afforded by the commuter rail. The commuter runs when other modes of public transportation are unable to get through. It is safe, reliable and affordable. Severely curtailing commuter rail services we believe will have short and long-term impacts that will be almost impossible to recover from. On behalf of the Scituate Board of Selectmen and the residents of Scituate we ask that you rethink these cuts.
Karen Canfield, Scituate Board of Selectmen Chair