Arborway transit meetings begin

September 7, 2007
By

JOHN RUCH

A private, invitation-only meeting will be held in Jamaica Plain Monday night as the first step in determining public transit improvements in the Arborway corridor currently served by the Route 39 bus.

“We feel it’s a good way to take what could be a large pot of ideas and narrow them down,” said Eric Able, spokesperson for the state Executive Office of Transportation (EOT), the agency organizing the meeting.

EOT agreed to run a transit improvement process last year in exchange for the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) dropping a lawsuit that would have required the controversial restoration of Green Line trolley service between Heath Street and Forest Hills T Stations. The process will seek consensus, but doesn’t have to result in an actual project.

The Sept. 10 meeting will include various “stakeholders,” including local pro-trolley and pro-bus activists. Also invited, Able said, are elected officials, members of the MBTA’s Rider Oversight Committee and representatives of the MBTA and the Boston Transportation Department.

The invitees will be asked to “hammer out…a working list of transit improvements for the corridor,” Able said. A public meeting will follow to gather reactions and input.

EOT will not only play host at the meeting. “We’ll certainly present some ideas,” Able said, adding that they would be MBTA proposals. EOT oversees the MBTA.

The MBTA “temporarily” suspended the trolley service in 1985. The 39 bus acts as a replacement in the corridor, though it parallels the remaining part of the Green Line’s E Branch for most of its route. In JP, the trolley used to run down S. Huntington Avenue and Centre and South streets.

Trolley restoration was one of several transit projects EOT was required to complete as environmental mitigation under a previous CLF lawsuit. After years of debate and court battles, EOT in 2004 announced that it would simply rewrite environmental regulations so it no longer had to do the trolley restoration, among other projects. It did so, though federal approval is still required and pending.

The CLF filed a new suit in 2005, but agreed to settle it, with the current public process as part of the settlement.

The Arborway Committee, a group of local pro-trolley activists, filed its own lawsuit seeking trolley restoration, which is still pending.

Differences of opinion remain strong and clear between pro-trolley activists and pro-bus activists such as the local Better Transit Without Trolleys. However, in recent months, there appeared to be some agreement among all parties that 39 bus improvements and paving over the old trolley tracks on Centre and South streets were good ideas for at least the short term.