LYNN — Mayor Thomas M. McGee and Bedford Town Manager Sarah Stanton have been named co-chairs of the Commuter Rail Communities Coalition, which McGee said is focused on “transformative change” for the region’s commuter rail network.
The coalition, a group of municipal leaders served by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) rail network, represents 175 communities in Eastern Massachusetts. It has declared its mission to be coordinating “advocacy for all communities served by the commuter rail, and to support planning efforts to transform the rail network to be a critical part of a modernized transit system for Massachusetts.”
McGee is focused, as he was during his time in the state legislature, on improving transportation in the city, which he has cited as being key to Lynn’s economic opportunity and will tie into the priorities of the coalition.
McGee said the coalition’s priorities include focusing on what the commuter rail should be, smarter rail connections for communities that aren’t directly connected to a commuter rail, what the rail system should look like, how to increase ridership and making the T more affordable.
A focus would be on prioritizing connections to rapid transit, with McGee citing the long-sought after goal of extending the Blue Line to Lynn.
What’s most exciting, he said, is looking at electrification of the region’s commuter rail system, which is a big piece of “transformative change for our rail system.”
Another aim is to look toward creating a more robust regional rail system, which would be similar to a rapid transit system.
“So, that’s the real exciting part for Lynn,” McGee said. The city sits 20 minutes away from the Boston North station, and also connects directly to communities north of Lynn in Newburyport and Gloucester.
“With a much more robust rail system, (we’ll be able to) make those connections both north and south that will really grow our economy and make Lynn, as it has been in the past, a gateway to the North Shore, a regional focal point for transportation and more importantly, for economic development,” McGee said.
The vision, he said, is for a commuter rail system that has a train running every 20 minutes, rather than making riders wait an hour if they miss their train.
“That’s transformative,” he said. “That changes how these systems work and how effective they are to meet people’s needs.”
Established in June 2018, the coalition of area mayors and town managers meets quarterly, and is supported by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the 495/MetroWest Partnership, the MBTA Advisory Board, and the Transportation for Massachusetts Coalition.
The coalition received an update this week from MassDOT on the MBTA Rail Vision Study, a comprehensive project that is setting out alternative scenarios to upgrade the commuter rail network and is scheduled to wrap up later this year.