Editorial: A quiet end to trolleys

The Arborway Line trolley restoration debate, which less than a decade ago divided JP as strongly as Whole Foods, ended almost unnoticed this year. A community lawsuit that was the last piece of realistic leverage for bringing the Green Line back through JP was tossed out in January.

Critics of trolleys said they would block traffic and emergency vehicles. Supporters said they would encourage public transit use with a no-transfer ride downtown. There were groups on either side, complete with buttons and T-shirts.

Today, bike riders no longer crash on the old trolley tracks. Buses spew (cleaner) exhaust into a high-asthma neighborhood. And the Route 39 bus line that replaced trolleys now features trolley-like giant buses that may soon have fewer stops with large sidewalk extensions for passenger loading—ideas that came from trolley restoration plans.

Did anybody “win” the debate? In public policy as in the rest of life, it is less about winners and losers, and more about actions and consequences, compromises and trade-offs.

It’s a good fact of life to remember in our current neighborhood debates.

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