STATE OFFICIALS ARE seeking to expand com­muter rail and extend the Green Line even as rid­er­ship fig­ures indi­cate sub­ur­ban­ites are slowly aban­doning the existing public transit options avail­able to them.

The trou­bling trend line has transit advo­cates wor­ried. Most of them say dete­ri­o­rating ser­vice is to blame for the down­turn in rid­er­ship, while others spec­u­late that com­muter traffic is down because more and more sub­ur­ban­ites are exchanging their green lawns and picket fences for urban living.

This is a rel­a­tively recent phe­nom­enon of declining growth and we wonder: Is it the begin­ning of a new trend?” asks Stephanie Pol­lack, asso­ciate director of the Kitty & Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity. “The system is def­i­nitely more about putting out fires than expanding ser­vice. It’s really get­ting hard to use the system.”

Since 2003, overall rid­er­ship on all MBTA-​​operated com­muter sys­tems is up 13.2 per­cent. But the bulk of that increase has come from the three “heavy rail” Orange, Blue, and Red subway lines and the bus system, which com­bined have seen rid­er­ship increase nearly 20 per­cent in that period. The three subway lines them­selves have increased more than 24 percent.

Read the article at CommonWealth Magazine →