Public Commentary Stresses Harmful Repercussions of Potential Cuts to Commuter Rail, Ferry Service
SOUTH SHORE — Representatives from throughout the South Shore, including local and state elected officials and residents from the Towns of Hingham, Hull, Cohasset and Scituate attended a virtual public hearing hosted by the MBTA regarding the proposed cuts to transit services throughout the region.
Roughly 415 individuals attended the call, held Monday, Nov. 23, with dozens offering public comment.
After a brief explanation of the proposed cuts, which are part of the MBTA’s Forging Ahead plan in response to low ridership and revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the comment period was opened. Elected officials at the state level spoke first, followed by local officials and then residents. Cuts to commuter rail and bus service were discussed, although the majority of the discussion focused on the proposed elimination of the Hingham-Hull Ferry.
“While I truly appreciate the financial situation the MBTA finds itself in, I do believe that to take a core public transportation option such as the ferry offline is not the right move,” State Sen. Patrick O’Connor said. “It would be devastating.”
Sen. O’Connor said that there is “light at the end of the tunnel” with the recent news of possible COVID-19 vaccinations, and that communities would be getting back on track next spring at the same time as the elimination of the ferry service is scheduled to begin.
State Rep. James Murphy, who represents the communities of Hingham and Weymouth, commented that ridership on both the commuter rail and ferry was high prior to the pandemic, and that bringing services back once they are cut or reduced would be extremely difficult.
“We can’t have a knee-jerk reaction to a short-term problem,” Rep. Murphy said.
Rep. Patrick Kearney, who represents the communities of Scituate and Marshfield, said he is a strong believer that public transportation is important to the residents of the South Shore for a variety of reasons. He stressed that the Greenbush Line and Hingham-Hull Ferry are critical for economic development, as well as post-pandemic economic recovery. The ferry also allows for the use of environmentally-safe public transportation in a time when communities must be doing whatever they can to promote efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
Corey Evans, a member of the Cohasset Board of Selectmen, referred to the ferry as a “cherished” service.
“I’ve never known any transit service spoken of as highly and as universally praised as the boat,” Evans said. “Trains and buses will get you where you need to go, but the boat has a connection to its riders that is just unmatched.”
Evans also referred to the ferry as the best performing system operated by the MBTA, according to the T’s own data, based on both cost per rider and on-time performance.
“There is no alternative to the ferry,” Evans said. “It causes no traffic, no noise concerns for neighbors. While system-wide cuts of MBTA service are around 30 percent as part of this plan, 100 percent of the ferry is proposed to be eliminated.”
Jennifer Constable, Chair of the Hull Board of Selectmen, argued that the Forging Ahead proposal would have an immediate, substantial and disparate impact on Hull residents, particularly when coupled with the proposed elimination of the 714 bus route that runs the length of the town.
“The town would be cut off from virtually all public transportation options if these cuts go through,” Constable said.
Mary Power, Chair of the Hingham Board of Selectmen, focused on the economic development and community building that the town has focused on in recent years, and used the Hingham Shipyard development as an example.
“Developers have told us that the key anchor to the project and to their investment decision was the ferry,” Power said.
Residents pleaded with the MBTA to at least scale back their proposal, rather than eliminate the ferry in its entirety.
“I know a lot of people are listening on this call, but I hope you are also hearing us,” one resident said. “I hope you are understanding just how devastating cutting the ferry would be.”
A final resident said that he and his fiancée moved to Hull from Los Angeles last year, and that the ferry was a major part of their decision. He called it the best move they’ve ever made.
“The first time I rode the ferry I was like a kid in awe,” he said. “I never thought public transportation could be so convenient, reliable or fun. We uprooted our comfortable life amongst friends and family to move across the country, and this was possible in large part because of the ferry. This year has brought endless difficulties, but one of those difficulties can not be to cut off this essential service.”
Public Comment Period Still Open
The Towns of Hingham, Hull, Cohasset and Scituate encourage concerned citizens to submit additional public comment to the MBTA by sending an email to [email protected]. Commentary can also be sent to Gov. Charlie Baker’s Constituent Services office by clicking here.
For more information on the “Save the Greenbush-Save the Boat” campaign, the official effort of the Towns of Hingham, Hull, Cohasset and Scituate in opposition to the Forging Ahead plan, visit the campaign website here and Facebook page here.