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MBTA drops weekend trains on two lines

Weekend service halted on Greenbush, Kingston lines

By Emily Sweeney
Globe Staff / July 1, 2012
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SCITUATE — Starting next weekend, commuter trains on the Greenbush and Kingston/Plymouth lines will stop running on Saturdays and Sundays.

And chances are they’re not coming back.

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said that given the transit agency’s grave financial predicament, restoring weekend service on the Old Colony lines in the near future “is not likely.” Fare increases and service cutbacks are necessary, say T officials, to close a projected budget deficit of up to $185 million in fiscal year 2013.

“Unless a long-term solution to the T’s budget problems is identified, we’ll be back in the same position next year with more unpleasant proposals for balancing the budget,” Pesaturo said in an e-mail. “What’s worse? Having to do it all over again to balance the next budget.”

The latest cuts will affect thousands of people who ride Greenbush and Kingston/Plymouth trains each weekend, whether to go to work or meet up with friends and relatives or visit beaches, golf courses, and businesses south of Boston. And area residents will no longer have the convenient option of hopping on a train into Boston to catch a weekend Red Sox game or go shopping downtown.

“Stopping weekend service in the summer could have an effect on tourism,” said Peter Forman, president and chief executive of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce.

Meanwhile, travelers will notice that fares are going up, with new rates taking effect Sunday. And, in an adjustment to the T’s initial plan, riders who buy a ticket from a conductor after getting on at a station where they could have purchased one conveniently will be paying a $3 surcharge.

So, for example, a ticket from JFK Station to Greenbush that used to cost $6.75 will now cost $8.75 if purchased from a machine or booth at the station, or $11.75 from a conductor on the train if the station had tickets available. Monthly passes for travel between Greenbush and Boston will go up from $223 to $275; monthly passes for traveling between Kingston/Plymouth and the city will go up from $250 to $314.

Weekend commuter ferry service between Quincy and Logan Airport is also slated to be eliminated as of Oct. 8.

Pesaturo said the moves are all part of the cost-cutting plan approved by the MBTA’s board of directors in April to help balance the agency’s budget. The Greenbush and Kingston/Plymouth lines were chosen because they had the lowest weekend ridership, he said.

On average, the Plymouth/Kingston line carried about 1,357 passengers on Saturdays and 1,111 on Sundays; Greenbush carried 1,132 passengers on Saturdays and 877 on Sundays, according to Pesaturo. The busiest weekend commuter rail line is Providence, carrying 5,801 passengers on Saturdays and 3,213 on Sundays.

Until now, eight trains departed from Greenbush throughout weekend days, the first at 7:15 a.m. and the last at 9:30 p.m. That will no longer be the case. Weekday train service will stay the same “at this time,” said Pesaturo.

Last Sunday afternoon, Debbie Ripley was among the dozen or so passengers on a train bound for Greenbush Station.

Ripley lives a short distance from the commuter rail station in Abington. That afternoon, she boarded a train bound for Braintree, then pedaled her mountain bike to Weymouth Landing, where she picked up the Greenbush line. Ripley, 58, planned to spend the day biking around Scituate, and thought about stopping by the marina where her daughter and son-in-law have a boat.

She had never been on the Greenbush line before.

And it was probably her last, too, at least on a Sunday.

“I was disappointed to hear it’s going to be ending,” she said. “It seems unfortunate that they can’t continue one or two runs on the weekend.”

Ripley isn’t the only one who will miss the Greenbush service on Saturdays and Sundays.

Also riding the Greenbush train last Sunday was Steve Cram, a 42-year-old resident of Scituate who plays softball on weekends in Brockton. On Sundays he has been taking the commuter rail to Weymouth, where he’s been picked up by a friend so they can carpool to their games together.

Cram said he wasn’t aware that the Greenbush weekend service was being cut until a passenger sitting near him mentioned it.

“It’s crazy,” said Cram. “On Saturdays a lot of kids from the South Shore go into Boston.”

Luis M. Teixeira, 57, was also taking the train last Sunday, but unlike many of the other passengers, who were heading to the beach or other leisure activities, he was commuting to his job at a restaurant in Cohasset. He lives in Dorchester.

When he heard about the weekend service being cut, Teixeira shrugged. Without the weekend service, he said, he’ll have to find another way to work. “I’ve got to take the bus,” he said.

The MBTA’s commuter rail system is operated under a contract held by Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co., a consortium consisting of Veolia Transportation, Alternate Concepts Inc., and Bombardier Transit Corp.Veolia plays the biggest role in the consortium and is in charge of handling commuter rail operations, managing its workforce, and maintaining the trains, equipment, and infrastructure.

Veolia Transportation is the North American business unit of Veolia Transport, a subsidiary of Veolia Environnement, a global company based in Paris that operates in 60 countries. The company reported $26.9 billion in revenue in 2011, and recently issued dividend payments to its shareholders.

MBCR has been operating the commuter rail since July 2003. Its current contract has been extended to June 2013.

Emily Sweeney can be reached at esweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emily­sweeney.

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