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Cancel the E Line past Brigham Circle? Officials vow to fight MBTA and say, if anything, the line should be extended to Centre Street

Pressley speaks at Heath Street

With trolley behind her, Pressley says transit justice is racial justice.

Elected officials gathered at the Green Line terminus at Heath Street today to demand the MBTA rescind its plan announced this week to end the E Line at Brigham Circle.

They were joined by disabled veterans, the North American Indian Center of Boston and about 50 residents in opposing what City Councilor Matt O'Malley (Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury) called a "needlessly cruel" plan that would harm the very people who need the trolley the most: Essential workers who live in such developments as Mission Park who rely on the trolley to get to jobs downtown and patients, workers and families at the VA Medical Center, Sherrill House and Hope Lodge. The VA Medical Center submitted written opposition to the proposal.

The MBTA says the cut, is needed, along with numerous others because of the collapse of T ridership - and so revenue - due to Covid-19.

In announcing the cuts, the T said they would be only temporary, which brought a rejoinder from US Rep. Ayanna Pressley that few things the T or government shut down "temporarily" ever actually return. Longtime JP residents recall when the T invested money in sprucing up the Forest Hills Green Line stop during "temporary" repair work that turned into a permanent end of Green Line service past Heath Street.

"This will not stand, because this is a matter of justice, and you're worth fighting for," Pressley told residents, who chanted "Save the Trolley!" when the batteries in her bullhorn gave out and City Councilor Kenzie Bok tried to replace them before Pressley began to address the crowd with the power of her own voice.

"This is the most ill conceived proposal I've ever heard in my career in Boston politics," O'Malley said.

"It's nothing less than a death spiral," because people will turn away from the T with lessened service, which will then lead the T to make further cuts, said Bok, who represents most of Mission Hill.

Officials dismissed the T's proposal to pair the shutdown with extra service on the 39 bus, saying that's already the most crowded line in the T system and just won't be able to hand all the extra riders and that the "redundancy" of having a trolley and bus line serving part of the same route is actually a benefit in an age of social distancing

At large City Councilor and mayoral candidate Michelle Wu, who was arguing for free T service, at least on some routes, even before the pandemic, called the proposal "a cruel hoax" and "a shameless move by the Baker administration to privatize our public resource." She added the cut would be especially hard on homeless veterans who spend most of their time in Government Center but who need to get to Heath Street for medical care at the VA hospital.

One of her potential opponents, incumbent Mayor Marty Walsh did not attend the rally, but his chief of streets, Chris Osgood, did and also opposed the possible shutdown, saying good and frequent mass transit is needed now and will be needed in the future to help return the economy to its prior shape - and that address the social-inequity issues that come with having some neighborhoods well served by mass transit and others not.

Bok said she cannot fathom why the state remains committed to spending billions on extending the Green Line north of Boston while preparing to cut service in the city itself - on a line that itself could stand some improvement work.

O'Malley and other officials said the state should be working to extend the E Line from Heath Street down South Huntington Avenue to Centre Street.

State Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz also spoke against the E Line proposal. State Rep. Nika Elugardo had an aide read a statement in opposition because she is still at home after an accident that left her with multiple injuries.

Also speaking: Carmen's Union President Jim Evers, who said Mission Hill is one of the most transit-dependent neighborhoods in the city.

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Comments

paid in "attention" instead of money) had this as E Line service being stopped at, ahem, Cleveland Circle.

It's like reading one of those before-time national-publication "Best Restaurants in Boston" where the person clearly has never visited here, let alone dined around in any deep, meaningful way, relying entirely on the Google. This is how the Union Oyster House keeps getting mentioned in such pieces.

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The headline should read "...if anything, the line should be restored to Centre Street".

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Extending to Centre st is insane. I already know it ran there til the late 80s. Don’t care. Stop at heath

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I would think they are talking about the proposal to extended it to Hyde Square, which would be very reasonable. Should be plenty of room, too, to have a dedicated ROW and not street run. Big ridership catchment, too, it is kind of a low hanging fruit/no brainer to do.

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"Longtime JP residents recall when the T invested money in sprucing up the Forest Hills Green Line stop during "temporary" repair work that turned into a permanent end of Green Line service past Heath Street."

They never did officially announce that did they? It just kind of happened.

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The repair work was for the tunnel entrance at Opera Place (at Northeastern); the MBTA had to suspend the line in order to do those repairs. Those repairs were completed in 1986-1987.

While the E-Heath line had LRVs and brand new Kinki-Sharyo trolleys, the E-Arborway still had PCC's, which were already over 40 years old and dwindling fast in number (from over 300 in its heyday to a handful, maybe 40-50). The newly-built Orange Line (Southwest Corridor), which could whisk JP residents much faster to Downtown Boston, rendered the E-Arborway moot, so the MBTA cut E line service to Heath Street and replaced E-Arborway with Route 39 buses.

This allowed some of the older Arborway trolleys to be shifted to Mattapan, while others were either sent to Seashore Trolley Museum and other trolley museums, left to rot, or scrapped. Later on, the T reduced the frequency of Route 39 bus service as it was causing ridership to decline on the new Orange Line.

Many people in JP - but not all - wanted the E-Arborway line back, but the landlords and developers didn't - they were chagrined that their employees and renters got a one-seat ride to downtown via the E-Arborway at the expense of the elderly PCC's (notorious for breakdowns) gumming up the very narrow section of Centre Street through JP center between the Monument and Seaverns St. They complained to Mayor Menino, who vowed not to bring the trolleys back to Jamaica Plain...until the Conservation Law Foundation got involved, and ordered the MBTA restore Arborway service. In a fit of pique, Mayor Menino ordered the trolley tracks paved over.

This section between Brigham Circle and Heath Street - the only section of trolleys in revenue service running in the street on the Green Line, as everything else travels in a right-of-way - always seems to be the sacrificial lamb when it comes to MBTA funding, and the attempt to eliminate that service magically gets taken off the table when the state gives the MBTA more funds or the MBTA hikes fares. Now that ridership has gone down throughout the MBTA, they have an incentive to eliminate the last vestige of street-running trolleys once and for all.

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Pulled a Trump? Damn. I liked that guy. He gave me a coffee and a plant out of his own hands in Norfolk Park. I didn't realize the full connection to Forest Hills was dead until they pulled up the pavement and pulled out the rails.

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Menino was a ruthless power broker. A nice ruthless power broker.

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And was a big bus proponent. Same thing with the Silver Line being "BRT" vs the full build trolley it was supposed to be through the South End into Roxbury. Obviously there were a lot of other things that contributed to it being a glorified bus route, but, Menino certainly didn't help.

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Do we know why he felt that way?

Obviously the time to ask him has passed.

I would say the people of JP were pretty divided on the topic. I was living there at the time and remember what a mess Centre street was with the tracks, traffic and trolleys. Biking was a death sentence between the tight spaces, angry drivers, and train tracks and destroyed pavement. I was happy to see the tracks go, and feel it made Centre St a much better place. The Orange line really is a pretty short walk from there.
I do love the walk down memory lane, though..great post.

I corrected my original post - I think even today there would still be a division between Jamaica Plain residents, especially now that the area is gentrified. You are correct, though - the Green Street and Stony Brook stations are about 3/8 of a mile from Centre St, with Green Street being closest to JP Center.

are they proposing cuts equally or based on ridership needs. like hypothetically, if the red-line braintree branch ridership is low, why make equal cuts to the green-line e branch when a lot of humans need it ?

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Oh for Pete's sake! The 39 bus runs right along that route and makes the similar stops. Adding some extra buses would easily pick up the slack from shortening the E line.

I used to ride the E often and that stretch from Brigham Circle to Heath was always a pain since the train sat in traffic so much (and caused more traffic when it stopped in the middle of the street).

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The trolley in the midst of traffic never worked well in JP and doesn't work today. The trolley as Hugo points out, is just another vehicle in traffic. That having been said, I would support constructing a dedicated right of way, which would result in only one lane of traffic in most areas, and probably eliminate some on street parking spaces in some areas.

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...have ridden that 39 bus when schools were in full session. Those busses were beyond crowded.

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But they're not and the busses are not currently packed.

Why not focus on the bus routes 18, 43, 52, or 55 - the four Boston routes that are being eliminated under the T's current proposal? I'm willing to bet that the four lines, combined, cost less to run than the Brigham-Heath St section, and have more ridership than that section of the E line.

And why has nobody bothered to propose re-zoning Roslindale Village and Hyde Park stations to 1A? Lynn, which is Zone 2 (more expensive than the Zone 1 on the Needham Line through West Roxbury), has already gotten a months-long pilot of 1A fares after extensive advocacy at the start of the pandemic.

So much for our Boston leaders being effective...

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Will work in Mission Hill probably won't in Hingham where protestors demand that cuts to commuter boats be restored. The T's response is to hire 25 more cops to protect managers from angry citizens.

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It's not ever been about racial justice. It's the shortest distance between two points as far as the ferries go. I've seen that traffic from the Red Line.

Me on my train and people taking advantage of the ferries always got Downtown first.

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I don't know its ethnic or racial makeup, but it's quite different economically from neighboring Hingham.

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The T also literally just finished rebuilding those tracks and repaving the roadway around them. And now they're going to not run trains on them? Absurd.

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Came here to say the same thing. The T is so mismanaged, it's disgusting.

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Made me late for work a couple of times before I figured it out.

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While I do understand how this appears to be an attack on marginalized communities, the 39 bus literally runs along the tracks. South Huntington is a deathtrap for pedestrians, cyclists, cars, and people leaping out of Green Line trolleys into traffic.

Pick and choose the battles. This isn't one worth fighting. Cancel the E line and add more 39 buses.

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After taking the 39 bus, picking up my dinner from Joseph's and walking up to the big driveway on Huntington Avenue with the big ass cliff in the back, and crossing the street like Bostonians do. Trolleys get way more respect than pedestrians. Extend the Trolleys!

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Just restore them. Mattapan to Downtown Boston, one ride, used to be a thing.

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