JP may lose E Line

April 17, 2009
By

DAVID TABER

MBTA service cuts reportedly being considered by the state could eliminate all of the E Line trolley stops in Jamaica Plain and significantly reduce bus and subway service.

On April 10, citing an MBTA-prepared budget document, the Boston Globe reported that the transit authority is contemplating drastic service and personnel cuts.

In JP, the contemplated cuts include eliminating E Line trolley service between Brigham Circle and Heath Street, and eliminating E Line service altogether on weekends.

They also include reducing evening and weekend bus, subway and commuter rail service by 50 percent; eliminating customer service agents in subway stations; and the elimination of MBTA Suburban Transportation Program subsidies.

The Suburban Transportation Program has helped to subsidize the privately run Mission Hill Link Bus in that neighborhood. JP’s 48 Loop bus, like the Link Bus, circulates through the neighborhood, running between Jackson Square and JP Centre, mostly along Amory Street. Currently run by the MBTA, the loop bus is already scheduled to be discontinued. Some JP residents have expressed interest in trying to replace the 48 Loop bus with a private service similar to Mission Hill’s.

According to the Globe, the overall cuts would eliminate 805 MBTA jobs, and services used by 52 million rid-ers annually. They would provide a net savings of $75 million, the Globe reported.

Spokespersons from the MBTA and EOT both declined to comment about the specifics of the document the Globe reported on, because, they said, service cuts are not yet on the table. They did not deny that service cuts are being considered.

“No decisions will be made without a complete and transparent public review process. I am committed to ensur-ing that the MBTA, as [it has] in the past, engage[s] in a robust civic engagement process before any decisions are reached,” state transportation secretary James Aloisi said in a written statement. Aloisi heads the state Executive Office of Transportation, which oversees the MBTA.

Aloisi commented about the Globe story on a blog. “Right now the MBTA is busy analyzing a full range of op-tions that may or may not include service cuts. But it is to early to tell since no formal set of options has been presented to me,” Aloisi wrote in his blog entry at transportation.blog.state.ma.us.

EOT spokesperson Colin Durant told the Gazette the conversation about cuts would be informed by a number of factors, including where conversations about potential fare hikes and whether the legislature enacts a proposed 19-cent gas tax.

Put forward by Gov. Deval Patrick, the gas tax is a controversial proposal. The governor proposes to use revenue to fund a wide array of state transportation infrastructure needs, but it is reportedly unpopular with suburban lawmakers.

State Rep. Liz Malia, who represents part of JP, expressed reservations about the tax, because, she said, in the past taxes dedicated for specific causes have been diverted to the state’s general operating budget.

That was the case with a state cigarette tax, she said. “There is no guarantee that the special budget allo-cation is going to hold… When we were doing ok we were able to significantly fund tobacco cessation. When times got tough fiscally, it went into the general fund.”

Malia was referring to a cigarette tax imposed in the 1990s and not the recent $1 tax to offset the costs of the state’s Commonwealth Care health care program.

The state legislative session runs through July.

In the meantime, the MBTA is currently running a public process to develop improvements for the Route 39 bus corridor between the Forest Hills and Back Bay T Stations. That process has mostly been focused infrastructure improvements, including consolidating and moving bus stops and adding curb extensions at stops. Those types of projects are traditionally funded through capital investments, and the Globe’s list of cuts appeared to only describe cuts to the MBTA’s operating budget.

Erik Scheier, the MBTA staffer running that planning process, declined to comment for this article.