Transportation needs take focus at NSCC forum

By Chris Stevens | The Daily Item | March 15, 2013

The need to address the city’s public transportation shortcomings topped the agenda when MassINC brought its traveling forum to North Shore Community College Thursday.

“The transportation system doesn’t work for the people who need it most and the only way to fix it is to invest,” said Stephanie Pollack from Northeastern University’s Dukakis School of Public Policy and Urban Affair.

MassINC is a public policy think tank that is namely focused on maintaining a viable middle class. It has been criss-crossing the commonwealth holding forums in a variety of communities in an attempt to get a better handle on the transportation issues facing the state.

Pollack has been working with Neighbor to Neighbor, a grassroots organization that fights for working class families, on its own survey. She said preliminary results essentially show, “If you don’t have a car or live near a bus stop you can’t get many places.”

According to the survey, 10.2 percent of Lynn respondents do not own a vehicle and rely on public transportation but inefficient and inconvenient service consistently keeps residents from using public transportation as much as they would like.

Antonio Feliciano, who represented Neighbor to Neighbor in a panel discussion, said he will catch the 6:30 a.m. bus to work despite the fact he doesn’t need to be there that early because he can’t trust the bus to show up. If he misses the early bus or it doesn’t show, he has to wait two hours for the next bus.

When it came to talk of extending the Blue Line into Lynn Parr said that wasn’t on the table as far as the MBTA is concerned. It is, however, looking to spend $1.3 million extending the green line and $1.8 million extending the red line, noted Sean Leonard of the Daily Item, who moderated a panel discussion during the event.

“We need a balance,” said Senator Thomas McGee, chairman of the Joint Committee on Transportation. “We need to take a look outside the box and look at options.”

When asked if they thought residents would pay more through a gas tax, income tax or fare hikes for better transportation answers were tempered.

Lissy Romanow from Neighbor to Neighbor noted that the people she represents had already admitted that in some cases they go without necessities in order to be able to afford to get to work.

“They can’t afford to pay anymore and they are the people that need it most,” she said.

Downtown business owner John Olson took part in the panel discussion and said the people he knew would if they believed the money was actually going to be used to fund transportation. Olson said in his mind, however, the biggest transportation problem is the inability to easily connect to Route 1, Route 128 or Route 95 from Lynn.

Economic Development and Industrial Corporation Executive Director James Cowdell said he thought people would pay if they understood that it would bring new jobs and economic growth to the area.

“We’re facing a huge crisis and we have a couple of choices to make,” McGee said. “We either recognize that we need to make the investment in transportation or let’s just continue to move forward on the same path … the choice to do nothing means a substantial loss of jobs.”

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