Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Birthday, Greenbush Line

So the highly vaulted Greenbush line celebrates its first birthday tomorrow. Needless to say, there has been a bit of coverage about this event. The Daily News Tribune focused on how there are fewer commuters using the boats now that they have the Greenbush commuter rail line. Which leads me back to one of my biggest questions: if South Shore residents abutting the Greenbush line didn't want it and since the commuter boats and MBTA Red Line were already accessible, why oh why did the MBTA push this line extension? The $513 million or so dollars spent on this project could have been allocated elsewhere. I would love to hear a logical explanation by the T.

Of course, commuters are choosing the Greenbush line over the commuter rail, as it is less expensive to ride the train than sail along the harbor.
The Greenbush rail line was proposed as a way to reduce traffic jams on Route 3. It was to supplement the commuter boat, not replace it.

But ridership numbers from the MBTA reveal a troubling trend: Not only has Greenbush ridership been below expectations, but there has been a sharp drop in riders taking commuter boats to Boston.

The number of commuters riding ferries out of Hingham fell 17 percent – from 64,905 for the month of September, 2007, to 53,692 during September of this year.

The drop was even steeper for the MBTA-subsidized commuter boats that run between Quincy and Boston. Some of those runs make stops in Hull. Ridership on those boats declined 22 percent, from 31,996 in September of 2007 to 24,906 in September of this year.

But the T can't say how many rail commuters were boat users. It just seems like the Greenbush line bastardized the commuter boat. I wonder if Route 3 traffic is any lighter? Also, why are Joe Pestauro's comments to reporters so snarky, lately. Really - there is no need for this much snark (outside of the blogsphere, of course, LOL).

Joe Pesaturo, spokesman for the T, this week disputed that number as “an assumption” and added “clearly the reporter is confused.”

Pesaturo, who would only communicate through e-mail for this article, said diverting people from the ferries or Red Line opens up more spots for new commuters. He added it still takes cars off the road, because many people were previously commuting from several towns away to get to the ferries or Red Line stations.

At least the opponents to the Greenbush line aren't backing down from the activism, even though the line has been in operation for close to a year.

Martha Bewick of Hingham and her husband, John Bewick, were among the early train opponents urging the state to use the money for Greenbush to improve the existing public transportation options.

Bewick said she and others were upset – but not surprised – when the T announced in its 2008 draft service plan for all its public transportation operations in eastern Massachusetts that it would pare down ferry boat service.

“I have real questions about how they can justify that, except that they desperately need money,” Bewick said.

State Senator Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth) said it the best: "They couldn’t afford to build it, now they’re realizing they can’t afford to operate it,” he said.

In other news, today's The Boston Globe ran two separate train-related articles. One was about a T request to allow a firm from Spain to build some locomotives for the transit authority. This is in direct violation of a Federal Transit Administration ruling that requires transit authorities to "Buy American." An Idaho company is challenging this. The locomotive project is expected to cost $186 million for 28 locomotives, with the option to purchase another 28 at an unspecified cost. Guess what - just like the Korean company the T wants to hire to build some commuter rail cars, the Spanish firm has limited experience working with US-based transit systems. When asked about this, the T claimed they are acting in the best interests of taxpayers, but really, are they? When have they succeeded in working with companies that do not have prior US experience. This is insane.

The Globe's "Starts & Stops" column touched upon an array of transportation issues, including WiFi and a proposed bus for I-93.

The Union Leader out of New Hampshire published an article today about NH's efforts to secure a commuter rail line. The headline summed it up the best: "Experts: If NH wants rail, it will have to foot the bill."

The Silver Line Phase III was the topic of an article featured today on

Finally, WickedLocal Lexington ran a story about transportation options even with the decrease in gas prices.


Sarah J said...

On my way home from Union Station last night I heard a commercial on the radio for a NewsCenter 5 MBTA story. Unfortunately, I did not stay up late enough to watch it but I found it online. I know this is an issue we've all witnessed but I wanted to share:

Anonymous said...

I commute from Scituate and since the Greeenbush line came into effect it has made commuting a lot easier. Before I would have to drive to North Quincy and then get on the Red Line, which is always packed no matter what. I also know a lot of people who are taking the train and thoroughly enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 12:39 p.m. Lucky for you and the other Greenbush riders that the train works out for you.

Maybe I'm jealous. But, as a commuter rail ride who lives west of the city, I'm sick of being told to stop complaining when I ask if we can have more express trains into Boston. I'm told that "well - you just expect public transportation to come to your house." I also see that people who live on the South Shore have far more options than those of us who live in the MetroWest, Worcester or Rt 2/Fitchburg areas. Not to mention that Fall River/New Bedford and Springfield are not even connected to Boston by train.

I have a 20-25 minute drive just to get to the nearest train station - and that is on a day without any traffic, which is never.

We are all part of the same state - it would be nice to see services spread out equally throughout the state.

The Greenbush line was someone's pet project. It has negatively impacted the T's budget - both to construct it and now to operate it.