Loss of weekend E train service worries riders
Nana Gogo was working at her salon Wednesday morning when she learned that the MBTA would terminate weekend service on the Green Line’s E Branch between Brigham Circle and Heath Street, beginning July 1. Her hands darted back and forth as she weaved a client’s hair together with longer, sleeker strands plucked from a table beside her.
“That’s not a good idea,” said the immigrant from the Ivory Coast. “It’s not good for my business.” Her staff and clients take the E train, and it can provide free advertising: Sometimes new customers visit Nana’s Hair Braiding & Full Service Beauty Salon, at 901 Huntington Ave., after seeing it from the window as they clatter by.
Gogo summed up the feelings of many who live and work on the stretch where Huntington dog-legs into South Huntington and Mission Hill gives way to Jamaica Plain.
In interviews this week, most agreed that losing weekend service on the last three-fifths of a mile of the trolley’s route isn’t a calamity. But they said it will be an inconvenience that will complicate their lives at a time and in an area where no one wants to see life become more difficult.
The neighborhood, lined with brick tenements, laundromats, mom-and-pop stores, and affordable restaurants, is home to a diverse mix of college students, elderly people, and working-class families.
Hundreds live in the 13-acre Mission Park development, and more than 100 seniors in the Back of the Hill Apartments. The Veterans Administration Medical Center sits adjacent to Heath Street Station, and just up the hill is New England Baptist Hospital.
The reduction in service on the E Line is among the changes that, along with higher fares and additional state revenue recently approved by the Legislature, will help the T close a $160 million deficit for the upcoming fiscal year. The plan also includes eliminating four bus routes and cutting weekend service on other bus routes and commuter rail lines.
Along the reduced E branch route, locals will still be able to take the 39 bus, which shares much of its route with the E train, but not everyone is satisfied with that option. Some predicted that the extra riders will slow down the 39.
“The 39 will work, I guess, but it’s not my preferred way,” said Jim Lanzarotta, who lives on South Huntington. Rather than end service at Brigham Circle, he would like to see the trolley continue to Heath Street but save time and money by having fewer stops.
“The thing is, there are so many college students who live down here,” said Janelle Downey, gesturing toward the Riverway, “and down here,” she said, gesturing down South Huntington toward Heath Street as she waited for an inbound E train at the Riverway stop. “People moved here because the T was out here,” said Downey, a 2012 graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
Walter, a customer in the South Huntington Market who declined to give his last name, said the loss of service would inconvenience college students, patients at the VA Medical Center, seniors at the Back of the Hill complex, and both seniors and families in Mission Park.
“You’ve got a whole demographic that’s affected,” he said.
David Woldu, a Malden resident who works in the convenience store, said he didn’t think it would lose business because most customers come from close by.
But Kenny Gamble, who works at the nearby Subway sandwich franchise and lives across the street, said he expected the change to affect the business and himself personally. Gamble and another employee said weekends are already slow there, and they’re concerned about losing the few customers who do come in on Saturdays and Sundays.
Gamble also said buses run less frequently on weekends, making the journey slower. “It’s not like today — buses run like water [today],” he said. “On weekends, it’s very different.”
At the Heath Street stop, many riders were patients at the medical center who came from such towns as Lynn and Amesbury. They said they would feel a far greater impact from service changes on buses and fare hikes on the commuter rail closer to their homes.
But Lauren Dever, a clinical social worker at the hospital, said not having the train stop next door on the weekends will inconvenience some patients and staff, especially while a parking lot at the facility is undergoing an expansion into a five-story garage, temporarily reducing the number of spaces available.
Jeffrey Wiesner, a member of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council who lives on South Huntington, boarded the E train at the Heath Street stop with his dog, a toy poodle/Bolognese mix named Oliver. Wiesner worries that a reduction in public transportation could hinder proposed residential developments at the nearby Home for Little Wanderers at 161 South Huntington and on a 1.1-acre parcel at 105A South Huntington. “I think it’s going to be a barrier to making it a better neighborhood,” Wiesner said.