As Part of Vote, Partial Hingham-Hull Ferry Service Will Be Preserved
BOSTON — Members of the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB) voted Monday, Dec. 14 on a scaled-back Forging Ahead plan that maintains some of the services that were slated to be cut as part of the original plan presented last month.
Preserved services that impact South Shore riders include the Hingham-Hull Ferry and the 714 bus route that runs through the Town of Hull.
“The preservation of partial ferry service and the 714 bus route is a significant victory, and will allow a large number of our residents to continue to have access to vital public transportation options,” Hull Town Manager Phil Lemnios said. “It is important that we continue to advocate for weekend ferry service to be reinstated for the summer months and that the reduced ferry runs allow for a volume that supports both the Towns of Hingham and Hull as needed.”
At the start of the four-hour meeting, FMCB Chairman Joseph Aiello said that the high volume of public comment received since the initial Forging Ahead plan was released was “highly impactful” on the board’s deliberations.
“South Shore-based advocacy was able to move the needle on two significant originally proposed service eliminations,” Hingham Town Administrator Thomas Mayo said. “We want to acknowledge the residents of Hingham, Hull, Scituate, Cohasset and beyond who were outspoken from the very beginning of this process. This includes riders, commuters, essential workers, business owners and transit advocates.”
The MBTA received nearly 7,000 messages in total since the plan was unveiled last month, and it was made clear that the public outcry was taken into consideration when the FMCB revised its plan.
MBTA Chief of Operations Strategy, Policy and Oversight Kat Benesh commented during the meeting that the South Shore-specific virtual public hearing held Monday, Nov. 23 was the most well-attended MBTA public forum she had ever participated in.
“We understand and appreciate the financial position the MBTA was in as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we thank them for a thorough and transparent process,” Scituate Town Administrator James Boudreau said. “It is encouraging that our collective voices were heard and partial services were maintained, however we will continue to advocate for the restoration of transit services to pre-COVID levels and hope the public remains engaged in the process moving forward.”
Specific service reductions include the following:
As part of the approved plan, weekday commuter rail service will be suspended on all lines — including the Greenbush Line — beginning at 9 p.m. This is unchanged from the original plan.
The original plan also called for all weekend commuter rail service to be cut, but the revised plan calls for partial preservation of the Worcester, Providence, Newburyport/Rockport, Middleborough and Fairmount lines. Weekend service will be suspended on lower-ridership lines, including the Greenbush Line (which was shown to have the second-lowest weekend ridership of all lines).
Service reductions to commuter rail lines will go into effect in March/April of next year.
The FMCB acknowledged that in regard to ferry service, the overwhelming response of public comments indicated that maintaining partial access was more important than frequency, and that many essential workers rely on the Hingham-Hull Ferry to get to and from Boston. Additionally, it will be easier to determine when to restore frequency at a later date if at least some minimal service remains.
The initial plan called for the elimination of both the Hingham-only ferry and the Hingham-Hull Ferry. The revised proposal calls for the continuation of partial Hingham-Hull ferry service, with reductions going into effect as early as late January 2021. Final details are yet to be determined.
Like ferry service, the FMCB acknowledged that public commentary indicated maintaining partial bus service was more important than frequency. The list of bus routes slated for elimination as part of the initial plan included the 714 bus route that services the Town of Hull, however the route was determined to be one of the routes with ridership over a certain threshold that should be preserved. This preservation was included in the final plan.
Specific bus service reductions will be announced at a later date.
The MBTA’s community liaisons will circle back with community organizations to inform them of the approved changes, and will engage in outreach to inform riders impacted by early implementation service reductions. By the spring, outreach will be conducted to inform riders impacted by spring and summer changes.
Outreach will include new schedules available on websites and print versions at stations, posters on vehicles and in stations, signage at bus stops, digital screens in stations and in-person outreach as possible dependent on COVID regulations.
“Today’s vote by the Fiscal and Management Control Board was a very positive step compared to the plan that was unveiled last month, but the most important thing we heard is that there is still a significant level of rail, ferry and bus service used by South Shore riders that will be suspended,” Cohasset Town Manager Christopher Senior said. “The Towns of Hingham, Hull, Scituate and Cohasset will continue to advocate for our residents who rely on these services, and will push for a restoration of services through any and all avenues possible.”
To view the recording of Monday’s meeting, click here.
To learn more about the Save the Greenbush-Save the Boat campaign sponsored by the Towns of Hingham, Hull, Scituate and Cohasset, visit the campaign website here or follow the campaign on Facebook here.