JP Observer: Two for T: JP needs better service from The Ride and 38 bus

The Ride less taken

A local woman noticed that the driver of a familiar looking car labeled “The Ride” had been honking for awhile this past August, so she went out that afternoon to check.

The Ride, according to its operator, the MBTA, “provides door-to-door, shared ride transportation to eligible people who cannot use fixed route public transit” because of a disability.

The driver said he was waiting for the woman’s next-door neighbor. When the good neighbor checked, she found the 90-something woman passed out on her hot, enclosed front porch.

The elderly woman, who recovered quickly, had run into another barrier to services for needy people the state has been erecting lately. She was overcome by the heat while waiting for The Ride to take her through Boston to Charlestown in hopes she would be requalified to take The Ride. (If it sounds something like Catch-22, that’s because it is.) The Ride left without her that day.

Many other users just haven’t bothered to call for The Ride to take them to be certified or recertified to use the $3-$5 per trip service in the last two years. Since the T began mandating that their abilities undergo “evaluation” and “assessment” in person at a Charlestown office, use of The Ride has dropped significantly. In the past, people could apply simply and logically by filling out an application and sending a doctor’s note.

Weak bus service in the Hills

Jamaica Hills, a major residential neighborhood in Jamaica Plain with Centre Street and the Arboretum at its prominent edge, has access to one mode of public transportation—the MBTA’s 38 bus. Buses run between West Roxbury and South Street/Forest Hills Station, with four stops on Centre Street on the way.

At the top of Moss Hill, on the same route, Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital has hundreds of employees and many additional visits from patients and visitors each day.

Downtown JP and connections to bus and train service are only a 10- to 15-minute ride away—once a bus comes, that is.

Despite the huge potential for passengers, the 38 bus is scheduled by the T to arrive and depart from its four Jamaica Hills stops about every 20 minutes during so-called “rush” hours on weekdays. Meanwhile, JP institutions, business and residents enjoy service from the 39 bus about every 10 minutes along S. Huntington, South and Centre at the same time.

The 38 bus runs less frequently on Saturdays and—strangely enough—not at all on Sundays. Given that hospitals don’t close on Sundays, and Moss Hill folks might want to go somewhere that day, no Sunday service for the 38 route is extremely odd.

Clearly, Jamaica Hills needs better public transportation. And that environmentally sound, traffic-reducing improvement needs to be promoted by the T to the hospital, its workers and its patients, as well as to local residents. They have apparently gone so long without good public transportation, they’ve gotten used to making other plans.

Sandra Storey was the founding editor and publisher of the Gazette. She lives in Jamaica Plain.

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