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MBTA to hold public hearing in Hingham over rate raises and service reductions

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  January 5, 2012 06:32 AM

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Hingham legislators and local organizations are speaking out loudly and decisively against a decision by the MBTA to raise rates and significantly cut services, so much so that the town will host a public hearing on the matter.

According to a press release issued by Senator Robert Hedlund’s (R-Weymouth) office, both he and Rep. Garrett Bradley (D-Hingham) have secured a public hearing for South Shore residents at Hingham Town Hall on Feb. 8 at 6 p.m. to voice concerns over the MBTA’s proposed fare hike and service cut plan, the two scenarios for which were unveiled on Jan. 3.

Under the plans, riders will face a 43 percent increase in rates, and see the reduction of commuter rail, bus, light rail, ferry and RIDE services affecting 34 million to 49 million annual trips, or riders will see a 35 percent increase in rates, accompanied by the same reductions affecting 53 million to 64 million annual trips.

Neither proposal is one legislators are happy about

“It is clear that the MBTA has made gains in ridership over the last two years, and taken
the first steps towards reducing inefficiencies,” Hedlund said in a release. “We should be expanding the reduction of inefficiencies instead of balancing the T’s budget on the backs of the riders and eliminating the very services that have made ridership gains over the last two years.”

Of biggest concern is the elimination of weekend rail services and the commuter boats.

“I have heard from many constituents who are frustrated over the MBTA proposal to reduce and eliminate services, especially the commuter boat,” Hedlund said. “I am hopeful that the MBTA will listen to the concerns of these residents with an open mind and respond to them appropriately as they did most recently in 2009.”

Bradley agreed that, “The Hingham and Hull commuter boats are a critically important mode of transportation for my district. To eliminate this service would severely impact individuals who commute and do business in the area.”

The South Shore Chamber of Commerce echoed the dismay that the MBTA might eliminate ferry service.

In a letter to MBTA general manager Johnathan Davis, Chamber president Peter Morman said eliminating the ferry would severely undermine a transportation strategy for the South Shore.

“The economic future of the South Shore depends on its transportation network. The major development projects underway or on the drawing board are all designed around a mix of transportation alternatives,” Forman said. “Water transportation is a vital part of that mix.”

The concern over the boats was reiterated by Hingham Selectman Bruce Rabuffo, who mentioned that without the commuter boats going out of the Shipyard, the growth of that area would be significantly inhibited.

Yet concern is not just relegated to town officials and legislative bodies. Residents, too, are fearful that the proposed MBTA plans might actually come to fruition.

Hingham resident Jeanne Reynolds says she plans to collect signatures prior to the Feb. 8 public hearing to show support for the ferry service.

Living just within walking distance to the Shipyard, Reynolds said having the ferry is paramount and critical to her work in Boston’s financial district. She has been riding the ferry for over 20 years, and says the commute is among the best parts of her day.

This isn't the first time Reynolds has collected signatures. Two and a half years ago, the MBTA also threatened to shut down the ferry. In response, Reynolds retrieved over 1500 signatures.

"My goal is to get as many signatures as I can," she said. "Probably 3-4000. Last year I just did it through the boats, but now I will do it through the town of Hingham. Its really an important issue to me."

All of these concerns and more will be spelled out during the public hearing process, which will take place at Hingham Town Hall. The Feb. 8 meeting will be one of 19 the MBTA plans to hold around the state concerning these proposals.

Hull will also hold a meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 11 at Hull High School at 6:15 p.m.

Following the completion of the public hearings in February, a final plan will be presented to the MassDot Board of Directors in March, followed by a board vote in April, that will spell out a definitive timeline for cuts.

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