The MBTA's South Shore mess

I love the T. 

I'm saying this upfront because I want to make where I'm starting from crystal clear.  I love the T and I ride it about 10 times per week, 49 or 50 weeks a year.  I drop my daughter off at school, park at North Quincy lot, pay my $5 via the app, get on the Alewife train (after maybe letting one or two completely packed trains go by first), listen to podcasts, music, and audiobooks, read the news, check work emails, and play on Facebook and Twitter while sipping my Dunkin Donuts iced coffee.  I get off at Kendall/MIT about a half an hour later.  This is my commute.  Every day I work, this is what occurs.   I repeat this on the return trip home in the afternoon.  I love the "me-time" I'm afforded and I love the T.

So now that we know how important the Redline is to my life, I have to say I am seriously worried about the next several years.   I attended the Quincy City Council meeting on April 3rd to hear the MBTA's executive staff update the council on the many, MANY projects they have going on in Quincy over the next several years.  I was ready to jump out of my shoes to ask many, MANY questions.

Let's break it down, South to North:

Quincy Adams: a 42 Million dollar project to improve the parking garage slated to take 3 years, 3 months--finishing 2020.

Quincy Center:  a 25 Million dollar demolition project that will see the five story parking structure lowered to two stories.  This structure has sat abandoned since it was condemned overnight nearly five years ago.  The demolition will take 18 months starting in July 2017 and ending in December 2018.  The MBTA also hopes to develop properties to make way for more mixed use.  You guessed it, Apartments.  Another 4.2 million dollar project, funded by a federal grant, will be used to improve the bus shelter.

Wollaston:  A 38 million dollar project will see the station completely closed for 20 months.  Trains will pass through without stopping.  Riders who need to board at Wollaston will be bused to North Quincy.  These upgrades will fix flooding issues and make the station accessible to riders of all physical abilities.

North Quincy: The North Quincy lot could be going away to be replaced by a 610 unit apartment complex, pending the many approvals huge projects have to undergo.  When asked where residents would park to take the T in North Quincy, the MBTA staff listed ideas not solutions.   One such idea contemplates using the North Quincy High School lot in the Summer.   I don't mean to pick on that idea, I think it's creative and it could be great for the high school to get some added discretionary funding.  But I point it out to illustrate how "nowhere" the MBTA is in replacing this parking at the moment.   They are looking for businesses to partner with to bridge the parking shortfall.  The good news, assuming the city approves the project, is the development deal promises to replace all the lost parking with a garage in the completed plan.  One day.  One hopes!

A Photo from MassDOT/Bozzuto/Atlantic (Developers' plan for the North Quincy project)

A Photo from MassDOT/Bozzuto/Atlantic (Developers' plan for the North Quincy project)

 

Let me say, it's wonderful that the MBTA is finally paying attention to the needs of the South Shore.   I'm excited to have new Red line cars (starting to arrive in 2019 - 2024), and a new signal system (finishing in 2023), and 50% customer increase per hour.  All in all, they are spending about $1 billion dollars to improve the Red line.  This is fantastic.  Unfortunately, it should have been happening over the past 10 years.  Now we are stuck with chaos for more than the next half  decade.  

Just before the MBTA gave their presentation, we heard from Mayor Koch on the city's  master plan.  Mayor Koch explained that some people may think we spend too much, but he sees it as investment.  By looking to leave the city in better shape for the next generation of council members, and the next administration, he is serving his constituents well.  I only wish that the MBTA had enjoyed this kind of forward-thinking leadership 10-20 years ago.  We are now seeing, first-hand, what happens when organizations are mismanaged and investment is too long delayed and passed off to the next person.

I was glad to see that many of the councilors took an active interest in questioning the MBTA officials.  I encourage them to keep in mind these points regarding the MBTA plans:

  1. They claim every project mentioned in their presentation is already fully funded.  This is hard for me to believe as the Quincy Center garage is not even planned as of yet. Please be on guard for cost-creep being passed on to the city.
  2. Please watch the MBTA timelines closely.  If they shut down too many parking lots and disrupt the stations too much all at once, we will have chaos.  I can already imagine parking wars in the lots and Thunderdome on the platforms.
  3. Protect the resources Quincy residents now use and enjoy.  Do not let the MBTA strip them from us, without timely and significant replacement, just to make a small dent in their cashflow problems.*

If the MBTA project managers and the city carefully choreograph an infrastructive ballet, we can come out of this in seven or eight years with beautiful stations, a world-class subway, and an economic boom for the region.  If we muck it up, we will have major problems on the T and increased volume on the highways and streets from drivers who will give up and withdraw from public transportation.  This will hurt the environment and wreak havoc on automotive, bus, and train commuters.  It will raise parking rates across the region and hurt the economy.

If I earn your vote and win this election, the MBTA's plans for Quincy will be something I monitor closely to make sure MBTA users and automobile commuters are both considered in all of these plans.  I will not allow the relentless pursuit of housing developments push aside the needs of our residents who need parking and a reliable public transportation system.  Solutions need to be practical.  Parking can not be a quarter-mile from the train station.  We cannot have people playing frogger trying to cross a highway to catch the train.  We cannot have platforms full of freezing, angry residents pushing and shoving trying to escape Thunderdome and make it to work on time.  A dystopian scene from "The Walking Dead" can not become the new normal in our train stations.  It would be bad for Quincy, bad for the T, and bad for the region.

Actual image of riders trying to board the T in North Quincy.

Actual image of riders trying to board the T in North Quincy.