Earlier this week the MBTA laid out its plan to cut service on the Green Line, a move that was publicly rebuked by City Councilors Kenzie Bok, Matt O’Malley, Michelle Wu and the community Wednesday during a rally at the Heath Street MBTA trolley turnaround, outside the VA hospital.
The MBTA released its ‘Forging Ahead’ plan that would reduce weekday and Saturday service on the Green Line by one hour.
However, the biggest change is the plan to terminate the Green Line E Branch at Brigham Circle. This would force riders to transfer to Bus Route 39, which mimics E Branch service from Brigham Circle to Heath Street.
“This is wildly unacceptable,” said Councilor Bok. “The people who build their whole lives around MBTA dependability are our essential workers, our elders, our communities of color…everyone hit the hardest. As we need more PPE and food during COVID-19, we need more T, not less.”
Bok pointed to the thousands of riders with mobility issues that rely on E line stops between Brigham Circle and Heath Street–especially senior residents of Mission Park, and the patients of the VA hospital.
At the rally, she told an anecdote about her grandfather, who received a free burial space for his service in Korea. “Well that same spirit that gives that free burial space, that acknowledges the fact that that’s service to our nation, needs to extend to things like public transit for the people who have sacrificed for our nation,” she said.
“We should be extending the E line to Canary Square not ending it at Brigham Circle,” said Councilor O’Malley. “This is the absolute wrong approach. While ridership is obviously down due to pandemic, this will be devastating to essential workers who depend on public transit. The state must find funding to stave off these ruinous proposed cuts.”
The T will also reduce peak frequency by 20 percent and reduce off-peak frequency by an additional 20 percent on the Green Line, as well as the other MBTA rapid transit lines.
MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said the Blue Line is operating at about 24 percent of its pre-COVID level.
“As a result of the decline in ridership that is similarly impacting transit agencies across the country, the MBTA is now only transporting 330,000 trips on an average weekday – but is continuing to run the same high levels of service as it ran to serve 1.26 million daily trips prior to the pandemic, an unsustainable level of service delivery,” he said.
Councilor Wu, who is also running for Mayor of Boston, said, “In the midst of a global pandemic, while tens of thousands of essential workers across our city are relying on public transportation to get to work, the MBTA just announced significant, system-wide service cuts. Let’s be clear, cutting MBTA services at this moment is not just short-sighted but also extremely dangerous, and would only exacerbate the burden on our already struggling transit system.Together, these restrictive measures would reduce access for residents across the entire region, and crowding people into more limited spaces will only increase the risk of infection for both drivers and riders.”
Councilors Bok, O’Malley and Wu were joined by Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, the Office of Rep. Nika Elugardo, North American Indian Center of Boston, and members of the Mission Hill and Jamaica Plain neighborhood.
The MBTA will be holding a number of public meetings to discuss proposed service cuts with communities and solicit feedback. The next meeting will be held online this Saturday, November 14, at 1pm. You can find details about this meeting and register for it at www.mbta.com/events/2020-11-14/forging-ahead-virtual-public-meeting-boston-and-milton-region-3.
“COVID-19 has had a significant impact on ridership and the MBTA is releasing these proposed changes to adjust to the realities created by COVID-19, while protecting service for those who depend on it most,” said Poftak. “I want to reassure our riders that these service changes are not permanent, do not include any fare changes, and will not take effect immediately. We are carrying out a comprehensive outreach process and encourage all members of the public to provide comments and feedback, as we want to hear from riders to help us identify and protect the services that support transit-critical populations and communities.”