Garry opposes MBTA commuter rail service reductions
REP. COLLEEN GARRY’S TESTIMONY AT MBTA HEARING…Lowell City Hall, February 6, 2012
I come before you tonight to testify to the harmful impact to our communities that would result from the proposed MBTA service cuts, particularly to those proposed for our commuter rail service. The Greater Lowell area has long been blessed with a symbiotic relationship with the city of Boston. Many our residents work, attend school or simply visit the state capitol on a regular basis. By the same token, the Greater Lowell region is rich with attractions of its own right such as the Tsongas Center and events like the Lowell Folk Festival and Winter Fest with the commuter rail being a key service bringing visitors to the area. The proposed cuts and elimination of service would have an adverse impact to communities on both sides of the rail line. Not only will it affect the City of Lowell, but it will affect the suburbs as well. Our residents would face new difficulties in getting to the city and our local businesses and institutions would suffer from a decrease in visitors.
There are several obvious instances where the proposed deductions would hurt. Limiting the last outbound train to 10:00 PM will harm those employees who work until 11 PM and may jeopardize their employment. Also, the weekday elimination of the 12:10 AM outbound train from Boston unfairly harms the Greater Lowell fans attending Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins games in the city. They would most often have to choose between seeing the end of the game or catching the last train. On the weekend, they would have no choice but to drive into the city. While not set up for the purpose, the commuter rail has also been a longstanding preferential option and tool to curb drunk driving. Eliminating this option will jeopardize public safety on the roadways of the Commonwealth!
Eliminating commuter rail service on the weekends results in additional problems. A large number of Greater Lowell students attending the many colleges in the city would have difficulty returning home for the weekends. For those who want to visit the City of Boston and its many museums and tourist attractions, parking in the city can be cost-prohibitive. Therefore, many working families would not be able to take a trip to Boston on the weekend without the train.
From a local perspective, the timing couldn’t be any worse. Just last month, the city of Lowell and the Lowell National Historical Park officials received good news about the proposed expansion of the trolley system. It is disheartening that as we see stakeholders and members of our Greater Lowell community coming together to expand public transportation locally, the MBTA is proposing draconian cuts that could sink the viability of the project. We have a great opportunity to attract and transport visitors to our local businesses and institutions but we cannot utilize it if they cannot get here.
These proposed MBTA service reduction problem isn’t limited to our own Commuter Rail line, it will affect the entire Commonwealth. Many studies have pointed to the regions surrounding Massachusetts’s gateway cities as keys to the state’s future. These regions will all suffer without access to the Hub.
Public transportation is good policy. It alleviates the pressure on the roads, is more environmentally friendly, is open to a wider audience including those who do not drive or own a vehicle, and even with price increases is often a cost-effective alternative.
Finally, while not always thought of as MBTA communities, it is important to note that Dracut and Tyngsborough pay assessments to the MBTA for their accessibility to the commuter rail system. To limit availability now is unfair and counterproductive to making the economy work for the entire Commonwealth!