Although Jamaica Plain was once famous for being a “Streetcar Suburb” of Boston, service on the Arborway Line to Forest Hills was suddenly taken away by the MBTA 30 years ago this fall. Despite efforts to bring streetcars back to the E-Line of the Green Line, they haven’t been seen south of Heath Street since 1985.
A local group, the Arborway Committee for Public Transportation (ACPT), is proposing that the Arborway Line reach down S. Huntington Avenue to Hyde Square. Lots of community people and experts have endorsed this idea for good reasons.
An Arborway Line Station in the Latin Quarter would mean most local residents could enjoy a one-seat ride to and from Park Street using a station closer to their homes. Hyde Square merchants would benefit from increased foot traffic.
The list of exciting elements of the proposal also includes: increased ridership of public transit; faster travel downtown; less local pollution; relief from the crowded Route 39 bus, especially given the coming significant increase of S. Huntington Avenue residents; and streetcars that are less expensive to run than buses.
ACPT is suggesting that the Route 39 bus might run express from Canary Square to Northeastern once the E-Line is extended.
The proposal for the extension applies the “Complete Streets” concept adopted by the City of Boston to accommodate all forms of travel: pedestrians, bicycles, parked cars, buses and streetcars. S. Huntington Avenue is wide enough to do that.
In an informal poll, about 30 local people who attended a community meeting on July 15 agreed they liked one design concept best of four presented, according to long-time streetcar advocates and JP residents Franklyn Salimbene and Alan Smith, who are on the ACPT.
That design shows streetcars making a loop through Hyde Square from Perkins Street. The station would hug the Whole Foods parking lot along Centre and Barbara streets, with streetcars re-entering S. Huntington from Barbara. In one scenario, that plan would result in the loss of three on-street parking spaces at most.
To see the concepts with renderings and get lots more information and to give input, go to arborway.org. Most important, sign the change.org petition there asking officials to extend the Arborway E-Line. “Like” the ACPT page on Facebook.
The BRA’s “South Huntington Framework for Future Development” endorses the extension. So does former Secretary of Transportation Fred Salvucci. The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council, the Hyde Square Task Force, Mount Pleasant Home, AstraZeneca Hope Lodge Center, Sherrill House and six prominent Hyde Square merchants have already written support letters.
The MBTA should be motivated to do this. Hyde Square has been declared an “Environmental Justice Area” which means it deserves “Transportation Equity” from the MBTA. Salimbene noted in an interview that expanding the E-Line here would also satisfy the requirement that the T mitigate carbon savings loss caused by the delayed Green Line extension in Somerville.
At the City level, the proposal comes just in time to be included in Mayor Walsh’s Transportation 2030 plan.
There’s no reason to say no to the extension. The sooner S. Huntington and Hyde Square get upgraded with streetcars the better.
JP resident Sandra Storey is the founder and former publisher and editor of the Jamaica Plain Gazette.