ilA decision on whether to make service cuts in the MBTA public transportation system, including the possible elimination of the Hull/Hingham ferry and the Hull 714 bus and reductions in Greenbush commuter rail service, has been delayed until next Monday, Dec. 14. The postponement has given those who favor retaining the services cause for hope.
MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak announced on Dec. 7 that recommended cutbacks, due to lower ridership during the pandemic and the T’s large budget deficit, would not be presented at the Fiscal and Management Control Board meeting that day as expected.
Poftak also indicated that some changes to transit services will be deferred until fiscal year 2022. An initial round of service reductions, however, will be announced on Dec. 14.
Board of Selectmen Chairwoman Jennifer Constable told The Hull Times that the postponement of a final decision “is a signal that the MBTA has given pause for thought on moving forward with their original plan and provides some hope that proposals for complete elimination of the 714 bus and/or ferry service, amongst other service cuts, are being revisited.”
It is worth noting, she said, that public comment and feedback from users of the transit systems “have been significant drivers in shifting discussions at the MBTA over the past few weeks. The community certainly rose to the occasion to protect local services.”
While Constable favors taking a cautious approach, she believes there is reason to be optimistic. While the official public comment period is closed, she added, “the public should continue to communicate their concerns and needs relative to public transportation to leadership at all levels so that we can work to adapt, as needed, to this evolving situation.”
Jason McCann, who started the savetheferry.org website with fellow Hull resident Dennis Zaia, had this reaction to the delay: “We’re happy the board is taking more time to think this through, particularly in light of the MBTA Advisory Board’s recent [statements] that included the prediction of a lower budget deficit than put forth in the MBTA’s Forging Ahead plan, and that the MBTA could be making service cut decisions prematurely.”
McCann said it is not too late for those who oppose the service cutbacks to make their voices heard. “We’re asking people to share their experiences about their current ferry commute, which ferry they take, and other information about their ferry experience,” he said.
The goal remains “no service cuts” or at least potentially moving all decisions related to recommended changes in transit service to fiscal 2022, McCann said. However, if the MBTA is leaning toward reductions, rather than elimination of the Hull/Hingham ferry service, or some kind of a middle ground, “the more data the MBTA has about usage from riders, the more likely we are to see preservation of at least a few Hull/Hingham ferry runs,” he said.
Also of interest to Hull commuters, Hingham Selectman Joseph Fisher told his fellow board members last night that his takeaway from Monday’s remote MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board public meeting is there were indications by the board and by state Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack that, contrary to the earlier possibility that ferry service could be eliminated entirely, that may not be the case. More information is expected after next week’s FMCB meeting.