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.