Green Line extension to Hyde Square proposed

The Arborway Committee, a transit advocacy group, recently released a report advocating for the extension of Green Line streetcar service to Hyde Square.

The report includes various alternatives, including one routing the streetcar through the Hyde Square rotary. The Gazette learned of the report during the State of Our Neighborhood forum Feb. 26.

“The proposal to Hyde Square is a common-sense proposal to accommodate ridership increases in the [S. Huntington Avenue] corridor and to help the MBTA meet service needs, while serving an ‘environmental justice’ community in Hyde Square,” said Arborway Committee member Michael Reiskind in an email to the Gazette.

The E branch of the Green Line formerly ran all the way to Forest Hills Station from S. Huntington Avenue to Centre Street to South Street. Service was reduced in 1985 and today Heath Street is the end of the line.

There was initially public support for restoration of service and the MBTA made a planning effort during the 1990s and early 2000s before eventually abandoning it. Public support had been eroding for the project and it became a major neighborhood controversy for years, but nonetheless, the Arborway Committee sued to try to keep the project alive. Its lawsuit was thrown out by a court in 2011.

The Arborway Committee, which has a new logo (a streetcar) and a new slogan (“Go Green”), has been advocating for the return of Green Line service through central JP since the 1980s, but Reiskind said the current initiative is focused on extending to Hyde Square only and is not part of a larger effort.

Reiskind said the Arborway Committee has not met with the MBTA, but hopes to do so when appropriate. He said he could not speak to the MBTA budget problems, but added that “it’s not like the MBTA doesn’t have any money—it’s always a question of  prioritization of spending. The projected cost of the extension is very modest, $15 million to $17 million.”

When asked about the report, MBTA spokesperson Kelly Smith said, “The MBTA is aware of this proposal and takes all public input into thoughtful consideration.”

The Green Line extension was also raised during the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s (BRA) corridor study meeting on Feb. 27. Multiple residents spoke in favor of the extension, but the BRA stayed non-committal.

The report issued by the Arborway Committee shows several different configurations for the extension. One configuration has the streetcar going down S. Huntington Avenue, turning left onto Perkins Street into Hyde Square. The streetcar then goes down to Centre Street before turning right, back onto S. Huntington Avenue.

A second configuration would have the streetcar turn left on Barbara Street and then a right onto Centre Street to S. Huntington Avenue.

Both of these configurations would have a stop at the Connolly Branch Library.

Two other configurations have the streetcar “stub-ending” where S. Huntington Avenue meets Moraine Street in Canary Square or the end of Barbara Street. The report said that Barbara Street would most likely have to be closed as a street if it was to be used as a “stub end.”

A “stub end” is where a single track ends and is switched to a track parallel to it. An example is where Green Line service ends at Brigham Circle and an outbound streetcar is switched to inbound track.

Reiskind said two situations inspired the report: the proposed developments along S. Huntington Avenue that include more than 350 new housing units with limited parking, and the “inadequacy” of the Route 39 to service to the S. Huntington Avenue corridor. He said the bus is often overcrowded during rush hour and at night.

Reiskind said that the report is only a draft and the Arborway Committee is open to suggestions. He said the report has been circulated to individuals and businesses in Hyde Square and to several local elected officials, who were not asked for their support, but rather to keep an open mind.

Reiskind said the Arborway Committee hopes to hold an event April 4 at the Connolly Branch Library to discuss the issue, but said it is still in the planning stages.

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