Opinion

For commuters: a good plan, as we await a perfect plan

We applaud Lynn’s legislative delegation led by state Sen. Brendan Crighton for urging the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board on Monday to increase commuter rail frequency and slash fares.

“Near-rapid transit service” is an opportunity to provide North Shore commuters with relief from what Crighton called “soul-crushing commutes” while Lynn legislators and fellow Blue Line advocates continue to call for rapid-transit service to be extended through Lynn. 

The MBTA is on record as listing Lynn as “a priority place” in its Focus 40 long-range plan for meeting Greater Boston’s transportation needs through 2040. State transportation officials have retained a consultant to complete a Lynn Transit Action Plan. 

The economic arguments for connecting Lynn to Boston by rapid-transit are unassailable. The Blue Line is a perfect answer to Lynn’s transportation problems. “Near-rapid transit” is a good near-term step that is sensible and doable. 

Increasing the number of trains running through Lynn on the Newburyport/Rockport line is an example, as Mayor Thomas M. McGee said on Monday, of using existing transportation infrastructure to ” …create a system that works.”

It is a solution that allows Boston commuters, their employers and the North Shore as an underserved transportation region to take the good while waiting for the perfect. 

Anyone who rides the rails to Boston from Lynn knows that the $14 round trip ticket buys a commuter a ride to North Station and back. That is a great destination for someone attending a Bruins or Celtics game. But it doesn’t do much — especially in bad-weather months — for the commuter trying to get to work in a convenient, hassle-free manner. 

Increasing commuter train stops in Central Square is just one element of “near-rapid transit.” The other equally important element is rescaling the commuter fare to the amount the MBTA charges for a subway ride: $2.40 one-way and $4.80 for a round-trip ticket. To be treated equitably, North Shore riders should get free transfers into the subway system as is the case elsewhere.

The average median incomes for Lynn residents is $53,513 and one in five local households live below the poverty line. Unlike their western and southern neighbors, North Shore residents do not have transportation options free from a tunnel or bridge commute into Boston. They do not have rapid-transit service provided by the Green, Orange and Red lines. 

“We, as a region, have been short-changed for 50-plus years north of Revere,” said McGee. 

Lynn is fortunate to have a legislative delegation that speaks and acts as one mind when it comes to the most important local concern: access to Boston and its jobs, and medical and educational institutions. It’s time for the MBTA to embrace a good idea in the form of “near-rapid transit” on the way to crafting the perfect solution for solving Lynn’s transportation problem.

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