LYNN — Business leaders from around the city agree that transportation is the key to economic development in the city. Where they disagree is how to make that happen.
Joseph Aiello, chairman of the MBTA’s fiscal and management control board, was the keynote speaker at Tuesday morning’s Transportation Forum at the Lynn YMCA, with local developers, business owners, and members of the community in attendance. The question and answer designed forum was planned after the announcement of the Lynn Transit Action Plan Study last November. The study is part of the MBTA’s Focus40 draft plan, a 25-year investment plan to position the MBTA to meet the needs of the Greater Boston region in 2040.
“They have been talking about bringing the Blue Line to Lynn since the 1940s and the only thing holding us back is money,” said former Lynn Mayor Thomas P. Costin Jr., a Nahant resident and chairman of the Lynn Business Partnership’s Transportation Committee. “Why can’t we follow behind Colorado and Texas in opening up private capital and public capital partnerships to come in and get the job done? I’d like to put a motion forward right now to write a letter to the governor (Charlie Baker) in favor of this partnership.”
No one in the room opposed Costin’s suggestion, but Aiello said the MBTA can’t afford it.
Charles Patsios, the Swampscott developer who is transforming the former General Electric Co. Gear Works property into a $500 million neighborhood that would include 1,160 apartments, said public capital and private capital partnerships are underway at the River Works train stop.
Under the terms of Patsios’ GE development deal, the River Works Station on the Newburyport/Rockport Line, which is used only by GE employees, would be rebuilt to accommodate new residents and the public.
“The ability to run a rapid train on a commuter rail does create a whole series of ripple effects,” Aiello said. “Even if we voted to approve it, the MBTA doesn’t have the money for it.”
Michael Procopio, vice president of The Procopio Companies, which has a major development in the works on Munroe Street, introduced two smaller, short-term solutions for transportation issues. He suggested the MBTA take a look at the high cost of service on the Lynn commuter rail and not undersell the value of water transportation.
Aiello mentioned the proposed bus route changes for the Better Bus Project and said lower fares would be part of the project. He also said the MBTA’s thinking on the ferry is much different than it’s been in the past, but there are still cost concerns.
“Looking at the all-in costs of all our modes of transportation, the ferry is the most cost-effective service that we run,” Aiello said. “The commuter-rail pricing is broken, not just in Lynn but everywhere. The prices were based off a bunch of rich white guys with suitcases, because that’s who was riding the commuter rail when the fares were set, but our world has changed drastically since then.”
Other attendees introduced desires for greater access to Salem State and a mobile device app that would help riders understand the train and bus routes in a simpler way. Sen. Brendan Crighton said access from the North Shore to Logan Airport is not well executed and noted the soon-to-be bill for rapid transit extension to Lynn.
“We really need to make our voices heard in terms of transportation,” Crighton said.
Alexandra Markiewicz was introduced as the project manager for the Lynn Transit Action Plan Study. Through outreach, she said, they plan to identify short, medium, and long-term solutions for transit plans throughout the city.
“As my staff knows, I have to be dragged to the table to talk about transportation,” Mayor Thomas M. McGee said with a laugh. “But, I do hope this forum is the first of many of its kind.”