By Rep. Josh Cutler
Summer is a great time to take the family into the city and watch a ballgame at Fenway, visit our world class Museum of Science, or just enjoy an afternoon at Faneuil Hall or the Esplanade.
In most suburban areas of Massachusetts a day trip into the city is easy. Just park your car at the local commuter rail station and enjoy a hassle free ride into Boston. Not so here in Pembroke or throughout most of the South Shore. In fact, we are the only area besides Needham in all of Metropolitan Boston not to have weekend commuter rail service in the area.
Citing low ridership and budget woes, the MBTA cut our weekend service back in July of 2012. Well, as the saying goes, sometimes you don’t miss something until it’s gone. The South Shore certainly misses our weekend commuter rail service. I heard that refrain frequently when I was running for this office back in 2012 and now that I am serving in the legislature.
Families wanting to take a day trip into Boston miss weekend service. Nurses, engineers, service and retail workers and other professionals who work a non-traditional schedule and rely on the commuter rail to get to work miss the service.
And it works both ways. Tourists, visitors and Boston residents who might want to get out of the city and come down to the South Shore for a day trip, head to one of our great beaches, or visit one of our nearby historic attractions also miss weekend service; so too for the many area college students needing to get home over the weekend.
The good news is that a bi-partisan coalition of legislators is working with the MBTA to make the case that our weekend service should be restored. Thanks especially to the leadership of Sen. Therese Murray we are making great strides. If properly marketed and competitively priced we believe that weekend service can attract a dedicated ridership and provide a successful, economically viable transportation alternative.
Key to this is not simply restoring the weekend service, but making it more attractive to use. That means adding family fares, reduced parking fees on weekends and other options to encourage residents to get out of their cars and hop on the train. It also means doing more to promote the service to boost ridership and develop more repeat customers.
There is help waiting in the wings. A local radio station, WATD, has already pledged $50,000 in free advertising to help promote weekend service and the Pembroke Mariner has also agreed to help spread the word in. The Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the Metro South Chamber of Commerce and many other local organizations including the Pembroke Board of Selectmen have already voiced their support for restoration of weekend service.
Our coalition is growing. And while we work to push our message on Beacon Hill, we ask you to join our effort. Let the MBTA know you want your weekend service restored and post your comments on our new Facebook page (facebook.com/ssweekendrail).
If you are part of a membership organization, ask them to formally support restoration of weekend service and send us a letter of support we can share. We need to show the MBTA that there is growing demand for weekend service and we can’t do it alone.
Think about all the economic activity generated by train service; the commuters, the visitors and tourists, the ancillary business and ripple effect that is created. Currently we have a nearly $1 billion dollar fixed asset that is sitting idle on weekends. We can put it to better use.
By letting the train engines run again on weekends, the Old Colony Line can provide an economic engine for our entire region.
Rep. Josh Cutler (D-Duxbury) represents the Sixth Plymouth District comprised of Pembroke, Duxbury & Hanson. For more information visit www.joshcutler.com.