The comments about the Green Line extensions to Somerville and Medford reveal that people do not fully understand why it is critical for Somerville.
If you agree that transportation improvements in densely populated urban areas are the best transit investments then that makes the case for Somerville because it is the most densely populated city in New England, with nearly 19,000 residents per square mile. 27% of households do not own a car and 29% of residents use public transportation daily to commute to work relying on unreliable buses to transfer to rapid transit.
Density isn?t the whole story. Every day 200 diesel commuter and freight trains pass through Somerville but do not stop. The city has one heavily used subway station at Davis Square. The city is home to the huge Boston Engine terminal where the T fixes all of its polluting diesel trains. We breathe polluted air from 250,000 vehicles that pass through Somerville daily on Route 93, Route 28 and Route 38. Somerville is an environmental justice community and is the only community in the state with over 200,000 vehicle miles traveled per square mile per day. Many people hate the bumper-to bumper traffic on I 93. Think about living near it and breathing the polluted air everyday.
Sine 1990 the state committed to extend the Green Line through Somerville (Artery Consent Order –ACO) as Big Dig mitigation for environmental impacts to the community. This commitment was incorporated in the State Implementation Plan (SIP) ? the state?s legal agreement with federal EPA that details how the state will address its violations of the Clean Air Act. Nothing happened ? while the state met other ACO-SIP commitments. In 2000, a second Conservation Law Foundation lawsuit was filed and the state re-committed to the ACO and SIP. Again, nothing happened. In 2005 the administration agreed to build the Green Line following a feasibility study revealing the needs for and benefits of extending the Green Line. In 2006, the state re-committed to the SIP & authorized two Green Line extensions, one to Union Square and one to Medford, delaying completion from 2011 to 2014. Now the state wants to delay completion to 2016. 26 years is a long time to wait for such needed transit. Is it any wonder that people in Somerville have expressed anger and cynicism about the state?s commitment to the Green Line?
Thanks for posting all this. It’s incredible that the Green Line was first committed back in 1990 and has been pushed off so many times.
The STEP website has a lot of info about this:
… that they had the intention of doing the extension. I think the real problem is that they over promised. Each of the promises in isolation seems good and reasonable, but as a whole they bit off more than they could chew budget-wise.
Off the top of my head, during the time MBTA was obligated to extend the green line, they’ve managed to find the money to:
1. create (and to this day continue to expand) the silver line.
2. to install the “space-age” charlie card system which I see no benefits to, and which seems at least as unreliable as and more prone to failure than the old token system.
3. to provide commuter rail service to scituate (a fine idea, but why is this a higher priority than the green line?)
I’m sure other projects could be added.
And this discussion should be about more than the MBTA, it should be about state priorities in general. For instance, imagine if just 10% of the money thrown away on the big dig project would have been invested in public transit instead.
1. The Silver Line was part of a promise the MBTA made to Roxbury et al in the 1970s. It is a legitimate high priority. I’m not arguing the execution of the Silver Line is worthy of high praise, but prioritizing the Roxbury community was fair, and dates back before the Green Line promise.
2. The “space age” Charlie Card system is designed to be revenue positive. It’s allowed the MBTA to reduce staffing. If the MBTA didn’t have such high interest payments when MA switched to forward funding, they might not have had to prioritize the capital investments to the Charlie Card, instead putting it off until the Green Line extension. But, since funding is a huge problem for the MBTA, the Charlie Card system — designed to help them lower their costs — became a high priority. Has it lowered their operations costs? I have no idea.
3. I would agree that Somerville should have a higher priority than Scituate, but I’m a city boy. I don’t know if the suburban folks around Boston would agree with me. It’s also important when considering the two projects to consider their cost vs. revenue projections, their impacts on the rest of the system, their impacts on other forms of transportation, etc. I’d bet that the Green Line extension has both higher costs and greater benefits than the Scituate line — how does it hang in the balance? I don’t have any idea.
Bottom line: you’re right. If the state would fund more mass transit projects [both MBTA and other transit agencies in MA], we’d have better mass transit, and all of us would benefit from cleaner air, less traffic, and a stronger economy. I’m hoping that the Democrats in Congress can get more mass transit money in future federal budgets, some of which will trickle to states like MA.
both for this and your excellent response to my NStar comment. I had no idea the silver line obligation has existed since the 1970s – a 20+ year delay and that’s WAY before they had forward funding as an excuse. That kind of puts the green line extension foot dragging in perspective, and makes it seem less likely it will ever happen.
Every trip you make on a highway is subsidized — to pay for construction initially and later for maintenance. Each trip through the central artery by a car is far more costly than the subsidy provided for bus, trolley and subway riders.
Most public transit trips are subsidized. Some heavily used bus routes and express routes pay for themselves, but all modes are subsidized. The most expensive subsidies are for commuter rail trips followed by heavy rail (Red, Orange, Blue Line) then Green Line and BRT and with buses requiring the lowest subsidy per trip.
Optimist that I am, when the Green Line opens it is estimated that at least 14,000 people will ride the Green Line extensions through Somerville & Medford. There will be a much smaller number of people riding commuter rail from Scituate — so the per person costs for the Green Line will be lower than the commuter rail costs, but the larger number of riders will increase the cost of the service.
Re-extending the green line here was a legal commitment too, until they ignored it for years.
I get that the supporters have to wack the Adm. in order to fight for the project, but Holy Cow Batman were beyond broke has anyone been reading the papers since the bridge collapse.
We have known that the system was falling apart before the accident but it is criminal to ignore the realities after it and after reading the Globe this morning about the condition of the T’s Bridges.
…just to let you know, the MVV, the public entity that runs the Munich public transportation system, seems to have been expanding the S-Bahn service (for the German speakers, that means Schnell-Bahn, for the rest of you, consider it somewhoat similar to the commuter rail, but every 20 minutes from 5AM to 1AM the next day).
AND they are digging an extra S-Bahn tunnel through central Munich because the first one (actually two, in opposite directions) is overloaded.
Public transport by the MBTA is a joke.
the Armenian genocide? The MBTA has not. Perhaps their close ties to Dunkin Donuts, which has also not recognized the Armenian genocide, is playing politics here.
If the Green Line extends to High Street in West Medford, I am for the extension. If it stops east of the Mystic River, I am against the extension.
because bringing the Green Line 80% of the way to West Medford Square makes it far cheaper and easier to go that last mile. And actually having a station nearby that is not like Alewife or Wellington may well assuage the fears of those who worry about it coming into that neighborhood. The discussions I’ve heard have frequently confused those park-and-ride, heavy rail stations with the much lower capacity Green Line plan, with no added parking.