Lemnios credits local lawmakers for their advocacy on So. Shore’s behalf
Hull intends to remain “vigilant” in the event of any effort to diminish MBTA bus or ferry service, Town Manager Philip Lemnios told The Hull Times, in light of the news that the T will receive nearly $860 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to help maintain services and jobs as the pandemic continues.
Still, Lemnios said he is pleased that the federal government is investing “robustly” in public transportation, which he called “an important element of many residents’ ability to commute and enjoy a more affordable way to get home from Boston or the 3A corridor.”
This funding for the public transit system is part of more than $30 billion allocated to public transportation in the American Rescue Plan Act signed into law by President Biden on March 11.
Lemnios expressed appreciation for the ongoing efforts of Rep. Joan Meschino (D-Hull) and Sen. Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth) in safeguarding the town’s transit services, including the ferry and bus. “They have been superb advocates,” he said.
This money, along with prior relief funds, will be used to balance the MBTA’s operating budgets into the beginning of fiscal 2024 following huge revenue shortfalls resulting from significantly lower ridership and fare collections during the pandemic, according to published reports.
Lemnios predicted that the relief funds will have “an enormous benefit for the [transit authority’s] capital projects and in stabilizing operations until ridership increases from the low of about six months ago.”
Public transportation has been “a lifeline for communities and the American people throughout this pandemic,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said recently in a statement. “This funding from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan will help protect transit employees from layoffs, keep transit service running, and ensure people can get where they need to go.”
When asked by the Times what the process will be to determine how this money will be allocated, MBTA communications director Joe Pesaturo said the budget “does not include individual line items for applying specific amounts of federal funds to specific modes of transit.”
During an April 26 joint meeting of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the Fiscal and Management Control Board, MBTA chief financial officer Mary Ann O’Hara predicted a “recurring significant budget gap” for some time and recommended “holding sufficient funds to support our service levels.”
Meschino believes that ongoing investment in public transit “is hugely important to the South Shore” for increasing economic development, facilitating commuting, accessing cultural amenities, and reducing carbon emissions.
“The federal recovery money is an important opportunity to meet these goals,” she said. “To that end, we continue to advocate that the MBTA support and grow the Hingham/Hull ferry, the Greenbush commuter rail line, and the 714 and 220 bus routes.”
O’Connor believes that this hefty one-time American Rescue Plan funding boost should allow the MBTA to put in place a long-term plan to provide adequate levels of service across the state. “I will continue to advocate for an increased service schedule – whether it be by ferry, commuter rail, or otherwise – that provides our constituents with the flexibility they need to get to and from work, school, and social outings,” he said. “We have great commuting options here on the South Shore, and we are going to make sure that they’ll be here for years to come.”