After months of debate over the for cutting services and raising fares to meet their projected $161 million budget deficit, the period of public comment ended last night at the MBTA's final public hearing, held at a senior center in Brighton.
In a Boston Globe article on the meeting, MBTA GM Jonathan Davis explained how they were going to move forward. According to him and the Globe, "neither of the two previously released scenarios will be selected by the agency’s board," but, "Instead, the committee that drafted those two proposals will take testimony from all of the hearings’ speakers and feedback from more than 5,600 e-mails and draft new recommendations."
The decision comes with little surprise. Following a meeting in Medford in February, Davis said
“When we came out with the two proposals we didn’t expect either one would be implemented in its entirety,” Davis said at the time.
The first scenario would've staved off the most severe service cuts, but require steeper fare increases. Under this scenario, bus 136 would eliminate Saturday and Sunday routes, while bus 137 would eliminate Sunday routes. Both buses have stops in Melrose.
The second scenario would've had less severe fare increases, but deeper cuts in service. Under this scenario, the five bus routes that have stops in Melrose—106, 131, 132, 136 and 137—would all be eliminated.
Both scenarios called for eliminating commuter rail service on weekends, along with commuter rail service on weeknights after 10 p.m.
The MBTA board's monthly meeting is April 4, and, also per the Globe, "Davis said he hopes those recommendations will be submitted by [then]."
The Metropolitan Area Planning Council, or MAPC, has some recommendations of their own. In a report released today and quoted on Universal Hub, they say,"Living in a health care hub, we often think of health as something that happens in a doctor's office. But this report highlights that the region's most important resources for health aren't limited to our world-class hospitals and doctors. MBTA service prevents accidents, reduces air pollution, and helps residents fit physical activity into their daily lives."
However, the MBTA's own environmental impact study on the effects of either Scenario 1 or Scenario 2, released January 3rd, didn't try to present the service cuts or fare increases as a boon to the environment or communities.
As they say in that report, "the highway congestion and air quality metrics show a greater negative impact on EJ communities compared to non-EJ communities, a further exacerbation of the difference in local congestion and air quality that already exists" (the MBTA determines it's "EJ" or "Environmental Justice" communities based on local poverty levels and/or an above-statistical-averages percentage of people of color in a given area).