(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)
Nana Gogo was working Wednesday morning when she learned that the MBTA would terminate weekend E Line service at Brigham Circle instead of Heath Street beginning July 1. Her hands quickly darted back and forth as she wove a client’s hair together with longer, sleeker strands plucked from a table beside her.
“That’s not a good idea,” she said flatly. “It’s not good for my business.”
Gogo, an immigrant from the Ivory Coast, has owned Nana’s Hair Braiding & Full Service Beauty Salon at 901 Huntington Ave. for 17 or 18 years, she said.
She summed up the feelings of many who live, work, and run businesses on this stretch where Huntington Avenue dog-legs into South Huntington and Mission Hill gives way to Jamaica Plain.
Most agreed that losing weekend service along the last three-fifths of a mile of the trolley’s route isn’t a calamity. But they say it will be an inconvenience that will complicate their lives during a time and in an area where no one wants to see life become more difficult.
With streets lined with brick tenements, laundromats, mom-and-pop stores, and affordable restaurants, this neighborhood is home to a diverse mix of college students, seniors, and working-class families.
Hundreds live in the 13-acre Mission Park affordable development, and more than 100 seniors in the Back of the Hill Apartments. The Veterans Administration Medical Center sits adjacent to Heath Street Station, and just up the hill is the New England Baptist Hospital.
The reduction in service on the E Line is one of a slew of changes taking effect July 1 that, along with higher fares and additional state revenue recently approved by the Legislature, will offset a $160 million deficit for the fiscal year about to begin. The plan also includes eliminating four bus routes and cutting weekend service on other bus routes and Commuter Rail lines.
Along the reduced E branch route, locals will still be able to take the 39 bus, which shares much of its route with the E train, but not everyone is satisfied with that option.
“The 39 will work, I guess, but it’s not my preferred way,” said Jim Lanzarotta, who lives on South Huntington. Rather than end service at Brigham Circle, he’d like to see the trolley continue to Heath Street but save time and money by having fewer stops.
“The thing is, there are so many college students who live down here,” said Janelle Downey, gesturing toward the Riverway, “and down here,” she said, gesturing down South Huntington toward Heath Street. “People moved here because the T was out here,” said Downey, a 2012 graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design who was waiting for an inbound E train at the Riverway stop.
“It’s annoying,”said Elizabeth Marino, a bartender at the Wilbur Theatre, who was buying a pack of cigarettes at the South Huntington Market with her dog Rufus Anthony, a hairless Chinese crested. “If they’re going to stop up there, then I’ll have to walk all the way home from up there.”
Walter, a customer in the convenience store who preferred not to give his last name, said the loss of service would inconvenience college students but also patients at the VA Medical Center, seniors at the Back of the Hill complex, and both seniors and families in Mission Park.
“You’ve got a whole demographic that’s affected,” he said.
David Woldu, a Malden resident who works in the store, said he didn’t think it would lose business because most customers come from close by. “They are too lazy to walk,” Woldu said.
But Kenny Gamble, who works at the nearby Subway sandwich franchise and lives just across the street, said he expected the change to affect him personally as well as the business. Gamble and another employee said weekends are already slow there, and they’re concerned about losing the few customers who do come in on Saturdays and Sundays.
Gamble also said buses run less frequently on weekends, making the journey slower.
“It’s not like today — buses run like water [today],” he said. “On weekends, it’s very different.”
At the Heath Street stop, many riders were patients at the VA Medical Center who came from places such as Lynn and Amesbury and said they would feel a far greater impact from service changes on buses and fare hikes on the Commuter Rail closer to home.
But Lauren Dever, a clinical social worker at the hospital, said not having the train stop right next door on the weekends will inconvenience some patients and staff, especially while a parking lot at the facility is undergoing an expansion into a five-story garage, temporarily reducing the number of spaces available.
Jeffrey Wiesner, a member of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council who lives on South Huntington, boarded the E train at the Heath Street stop with his dog, a toy poodle/Bolognese mix named Oliver.
Wiesner said he was worried that a reduction in public transportation could hinder proposed residential developments at the nearby Home for Little Wanderers at 161 South Huntington Ave. and on a 1.1-acre parcel at 105A South Huntington Ave.
“I think it’s going to be a barrier to making it a better neighborhood,” Wiesner said.
Gogo, the salon owner, said her staff and clients take the E train, and it can provide free advertising — sometimes new customers visit her salon after seeing it from the window as they ride by. She acknowledged that they can take the 39 bus instead, but she expects the extra riders switching from the train to the bus will slow down the 39 and make it more crowded.
“The weekend is the busiest time, and a lot of people like to come by the train because there’s no parking,” she said.
(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)