But reductions in schedules in the offing
About 50 Save the Ferry subscribers shared in a virtual “toast” Monday night following the announcement late that afternoon that neither the Hull-Hingham ferry service nor the 714 Hull bus run will be eliminated after all, although both will run on reduced schedules. However, direct ferry service between Hingham and Boston will be suspended effective next month.
“The idea behind the toast was to celebrate the work of many different people in getting us to a place where modifications were made that took the proposal to eliminate Hull-Hingham ferry service off the table,” Save the Ferry co-founder Jason McCann told The Hull Times. “While there are still some questions to be answered, we consider that a success. It’s clear that the different stories ferry riders shared with the MBTA about their personal experiences made a difference.”
Town officials from Hull, Hingham, and other South Shore communities and state Rep. Joan Meschino, of Hull, state Sen. Patrick O’Connor, and other local legislators also played a major role in opposing the earlier-proposed reductions in ferry and other public transportation services.
While the changes announced Monday represent “drastic cuts,” McCann is pleased with the progress. “We’ll be keeping up the effort. We’ll be regrouping to come up with the best, most-useful next steps – whether advocating before the Legislature to continue to keep the ferry going; asking ferry riders to continue to submit comments about when they plan to use the ferry again or their current usage; determining whether the new ferry schedule works for them; or other measures.
“It feels like we’ve gotten a reprieve, but we will continue to remain vigilant. And it’s important for people to continue to ride the ferry.”
After a four-hour meeting Monday, the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board took a formal vote on proposed service cutbacks as follows:
- The Hingham-Hull ferry will be maintained but at reduced levels of service (details not yet worked out). This service change will go into effect by late January.
- The 714 bus that runs between Pemberton Point, Hull, and Station Street in Hingham will be maintained, but service levels will be reduced (details to come at a later date). It appears that enough service will be offered to meet ridership demand, according to a Facebook post by Senator O’Connor.
- The Greenbush commuter train will operate weekdays until 9 p.m. at a reduced frequency, with an emphasis on peak runs, with the elimination of weekend service starting in March. In addition, the commuter rail will run on a reduced winter schedule beginning in late January.
- The board also voted to revisit ridership by March 15 to consider whether service levels could be restored.
“To be clear,” O’Connor continued in his Facebook post, “the overwhelming feedback from those on the South Shore had a direct impact on the adjustments made by the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board. Thank you to those who spoke up and to the MBTA’s FMCB for listening to us.”
Board of Selectmen Chairwoman Jennifer Constable agreed that South Shore municipal, state, and grassroot advocacy helped to move the MBTA from service elimination to service reductions. “This is a huge success,” she said. “We are appreciative that the MBTA’s FMCB listened to its ridership and communities and were responsive to public comments and feedback on their original proposal.”
In March, when the MBTA will reassess service demands for the balance of the fiscal year, advocacy for continued ferry service will be needed, Constable stressed. “We should remain vigilant to ensure that service needs are reassessed and adjusted as necessary; that the single Hull-Hingham-Boston run is sufficient and has adequate capacity to service both communities; and that weekend service is restored for the summer, at a minimum.”
It appears that the Save the Ferry group’s work is not over. “We want to be sure to remain part of the process, with an eye toward ferry capacity and usage,” McCann said. “Will there be any scheduling conflicts? At what point will the Hull-Hingham ferry fill up considering the Hingham-Boston boat run will be eliminated? … and other questions.”
Save the Ferry co-founder Dennis Zaia credited McCann’s inspiration to encourage everyday ferry riders to share their unique stories about what ferry service means to them with “helping the MBTA understand the ways in which earlier-proposed changes would [negatively] affect their lives,” Zaia said. “Jason created the energy that really moved this effort forward. He had a very clear vision, and I tagged on to add another voice.”
For more information, visit savetheferry.org.