The irony is palpable. According to stories in recent issues of the Gazette, Jamaica Plain is beset by problems created by the automobile. High-speed roadways negatively affect Franklin Park. Homeowners park illegally on their front lawns. Careless drivers hit pedestrians. And development at Forest Hills threatens further congestion in surrounding neighborhoods.
All of these negative neighborhood impacts, especially when viewed in the wider context of global warming and $4-a-gallon gasoline, speak to the urgency of improving public transit in JP. Yet the response from our government is regressive and unenlightened.
First, there is the paving of the Green Line tracks on Centre and South streets. While I don’t contend that the existing tracks are usable for service, and I agree that the streets needed repaving, I also don’t accept that we can afford to ignore and render useless transit infrastructure that would otherwise increase public transit ridership and make the neighborhood both more accessible to people and less reliant on the automobile. Green Line service to JP has never made more sense that it does now, not only because of our auto-related problems and global warming, but also because of the continuing and glaring inability of the #39 bus to retain ridership and “put feet on Centre Street.”
Second, in all the talk about the Forest Hills master plan, there has been no discussion, not one word, about extending the Orange Line beyond Forest Hills. Forest Hills Station is the converging point for automobiles from many parts because it is the closest subway stop to many outlying areas. What kind of a master plan is it that calls for transit-oriented development without any discussion of improving transit?
In keeping with themes raised in the Arborway Committee’s recent series on “Rethinking Centre Street,” I propose a rethink of transit generally in JP. First, the Green Line should be rebuilt to JP and Forest Hills Station, and extended east from Forest Hills in a corridor close to Morton Street. Such an extension would serve Franklin Park and the new housing developments near the site of the old Boston State Hospital. These developments are thoughtlessly devoid of any public transit infrastructure to serve the hundreds of people who will live in them. A Green Line extension would provide that infrastructure to Forest Hills station and to the medical areas along Huntington Avenue.
Second, the Orange Line should be extended south or southwest to Readville or a similarly suitable multi-modal location. By extending the Orange Line the benefits of rail service would be more widely available and would reduce the burden on neighborhoods around Forest Hills.
Third, commuter rail service at Forest Hills must be made more accessible by increasing both the frequency of service and the number of “reverse-commute” destinations. We are at a tipping point. It is not good or sustainable public policy to talk about transit-oriented development or to bemoan the real problems posed by the automobile without improving public transit.
Franklyn P. Salimbene