Major questions about JP transit unanswered

The recent settlement between the state and the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) ended the legal challenge posed by the Federal Clean Air Act to the MBTA’s current Arborway bus service. It did not, however, resolve other potential legal challenges to the service; nor did it mandate one particular type or mode of service over another. In effect, it left the major questions unanswered.

For the Arborway Committee (, putting aside for now any additional legal question, the other question continues to be a transit question: How do we move people from Centre/South, from Hyde Square and from any other point along the Arborway route out of their automobiles and into the downtown subway system on transit without requiring a transfer? In the face of stunning ongoing losses in #39 bus ridership and a recent suggestion by a major political figure that the state straighten and widen the Jamaicaway to accommodate automobile travel, this transit question remains key to the long-term viability of JP.

So, for the moment, without the mandate of a legal requirement, the CLF settlement offers an invitation for everyone in the community to participate in a discussion about the future of transportation in JP. The discussion must be broad-based and involve more than simply the advocates for Green Line light rail service to Park Street and the proponents of busing people to Brookline Village and transferring to the subway. The issue of good transportation must be viewed as everyone’s issue because the impact of bad transportation is everyone’s problem—homeowners, merchants, drivers, pedestrians, victims of environmental injustice. So if you’ve been on the sidelines, now is the time. New faces and new voices must be seen and heard in this discussion.

The discussion must also be broad in a second sense. It must include discussion about the Arborway transit corridor itself, i.e., the streetscape and roadway network. For years, friends and neighbors have bemoaned conditions on Centre Street, and yet paralysis has prevailed whenever it came to doing something about it. We know the issues—high traffic volumes, poor traffic enforcement, abominable bus service, on-street parking and a sense that ownership of the street resides only in a few. Yet the Arborway Committee has always believed that discussions about Green Line restoration, for which we continue to advocate, are a catalyst for positive change on the street, that encouraging an environment where public transit is the centerpiece leads us to think outside the box that is the current Centre Street situation. A public process that simply invites people to discuss retiming traffic lights and choosing the locations for benches misses the point and the opportunity.

In fact, the Gazette’s juxtaposition of transit-related letters in the Dec. 15 issue captured the sense of what we mean by “missing the opportunity.” While some would accept the street as it is, the letter by Matt Gillman offered a bold vision of Centre Street that included a pedestrian mall while promoting both neighborhood commerce and Green Line service. This is worthy of a community transportation discussion. The Arborway Committee looks forward to it.

Franklyn Salimbene
Karen Wepsic
Kevin Moloney
Jamaica Plain

The writers are members of the Arborway Committee.

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