Our opinion: Lynn should be T’d off

The city of Lynn needs the Blue Line extension. Why can’t anybody at the state level understand that?

The simple unalterable truth is that Lynn is never going to reach its potential without rapid transit linking it to Boston. This has been proven conclusively through research, debates, studies, and just plain common sense (you have noticed the empty parking garage, right?). And until state officials, including the governor next door, realize it, we are all just spitting into the wind.

Extending the Blue Line to Lynn is one of the topics discussed in the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s broad-sweeping, big-thinking, just-released “Focus40” report. But anyone who is ready to run down to the commuter rail garage and buy a Charlie Card should give the 68-page report at least a passing glance.

Transit improvements aimed at benefiting Lynn are lumped in Focus40 under categories titled “Big Ideas” and “What’s Next.” While categories in the report titled “We’re Doing” and “We’re Planning” scope out projects envisioned for execution through 2040, the “We’re Imagining” category is exactly what the title implies: A list of ideas that may or may not reach the drawing board.

Never mind the fact that decades worth of research and arguments have made the case for why extending rapid transit to Lynn makes sense. Never mind that economic growth and transit development are tied together in Focus2040: Lynn gets a passing mention in a report that purports to lay out a shiny new vision for the MBTA.

What is especially galling about Focus40 is that its introduction portrays the report as an “investment plan” for transit in Eastern Massachusetts. Exhaustive arguments have been made to detail the merits of extending the Blue Line. They include providing a direct connection between Lynn and Boston and powering up development in Lynn.

“New fast and frequent rail connections to Downtown Boston would support economic development and job creation in Lynn.” That is the conclusion detailed on page 35 of the report. The section titled “Blue Line Extension to Lynn” goes on to highlight extension merits, including improving access to jobs for “Lynns existing transit-dependent population” and giving Lynn’s downtown its best shot to “… attract jobs and companies priced out of Boston’s core …”

What more convincing reasons are needed to make the extension a priority not for the sake of imagination but for action and completion? Focus40 makes its own case for prioritizing the Blue Line extension by highlighting Lynn’s status as one of several “urban gateways” defined as being located beyond transit service, except commuter rail; containing sizeable low-income, transit-dependent populations, and having a “moderate intensity” of commercial and residential development built or in the pipeline.

That description fits Lynn to a T (pun intended), so why doesn’t Focus40 match Lynn’s challenges with Blue Line extension benefits and prioritize the extension?

The answer is annoyingly obvious: When it comes to making definitive commitments to transit improvement in Lynn and, by extension, on the North Shore, the MBTA is in the business of paying lip service. A region with overburdened highways, limited transit access — including inefficient commuter rail service — into Boston and an unfunded ferry service gets relegated in the grand scheme of things to “next generation” status in Focus40.

A Blue Line extension is a good idea, according to the report, but it is not a priority and it’s not even a planning priority for the MBTA. That “we’ll-get-to-it-when-we-get-to-it” thinking is unacceptable to Lynn residents and their North Shore neighbors.

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