Needham selectmen have joined speaking out against the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s proposed service cuts and rate hikes.
The board unanimously voted Tuesday, March 13 to send a letter to state Sen. Richard Ross and Sen. Michael Rush and state Rep. Denise Garlick that shares their “collective concern” over the plan, which seeks to close a $161 million budget gap in fiscal year 2013.
To address that budget gap, the MBTA and Massachusetts Department of Transportation have put forward two possible scenarios that have received considerable criticism over the past month or so. In the first scenario, overall public transit fares would increase by about 43 percent; in the second, fares would increase by about 35 percent across the board. In both cases, service for Commuter Rail, bus, light rail, ferry and THE RIDE would be reduced.
Needham benefits from an active Commuter Line, which stops at four stations in town, as well as a bus route (Bus 59).
The letter, drafted by members of the Needham Transportation Committee, summarizes many of the points expressed at the committee’s on the matter.
Based on an analysis commissioned by the MBTA, as well as their own investigation, the Needham Transportation Committee estimated that weekday ridership on the Needham Line would drop by between 14 and 16 percent under either scenario.
The NTC asserts in the letter that the impact of either scenario on Needham would be “both significant and profound.”
“Needham has been, and remains, a highly sought-after suburb because of its four commuter rail stations, three (soon to be four) Route 128 exits, and outstanding schools and municipal services,” the letter states. “Without quick and easy public transit access to Boston, interest in Needham would likely lessen, and residential property value trends, which have been mostly positive despite the economic downturn, may reverse.”
The MBTA changes also would hurt Needham’s efforts to “encourage business investment and re-development in and around Route 128,” as access to the Commuter Rail and the T’s Green Line via Bus 59 is a “major selling point," according to the NTC document.
In the letter, the Transportation Committee also said the town has “strong reservations” about the MBTA Advisory Board’s proposal to instead have a 25 percent across-the-board fare increase to avoid a drop in ridership.
“We encourage you to explore broad-based funding mechanisms to maintain the benefits of a strong and affordable public transit system that supports the quality of life in Needham and the rest of the Boston metropolitan area," the NTC said in the letter.
After hearing from the Transportation Committee on Tuesday, selectmen shared some of their thoughts on the issue.
Selectman John Bulian said the roadways into Boston were already overcrowded and that the MBTA proposal would likely force more drivers onto the road.
“It would seem to me that the city of Boston would be screaming about this,” Bulian said. “They don’t have the parking now to accommodate that number of cars. Congestion is already overwhelming the city.”
Selectman Moe Handel said the MBTA’s problems would need to be solved by the state legislature in the form of new revenues and an overhaul of the system.
“The T doesn’t have the resources to solve this problem. There has to be a fundamental shift in how we manage our regional transportation,” Handel said.