|Get Poor Jumbo on the MBTA|
|Written by John Peter Kaytrosh|
|Monday, March 16, 2009 11:50 PM|
It is generally agreed, at least within the area served by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), that a greater commitment to public transportation is not only a good thing, given the current fuel crisis, but something that is entirely necessary given the current fuel crisis. However, the most urgent project on the T’s agenda, besides, of course, finding a way to pay its salaries, is one that was promised in 1990 with the start of Boston’s legendary Big Dig. As any Tufts student who has walked to Davis Square knows, it is the extension of the Green Line to Medford. As in any city, money was the issue, but with funding guaranteed by the Commonwealth for the virtually bankrupt MBTA, building the extension, is now a sure thing. However, there are many battles to be fought on the way to Medford, and Boston’s strange sociology is being brought to the fore once again.
The Green Line is the nation’s most heavily-ridden light rail line, a remarkable feat, considering the more extensive systems in cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. The last time the Green Line was extended was in 1959, when a branch terminating in Riverside opened in Newton, a community which, like Somerville and Medford, is unsure whether its identity is urban or suburban. However, this has not prevented the Green Line’s success in this community for almost half a century. Residents of Somerville, which is the most densely populated city in New England, are insistent that this extension be built, and are receiving support from Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. Support for the Green Line extension is critical for any would-be politician within the community. Even Governor Deval Patrick made an appearance last October wWhen beginning his earnest push to secure funding for the extension., Gov. Deval Patrick even made an appearance last October.
However, Somerville’s interests do not merely lie in getting funding. Few Tufts students are familiar with Gilman Square, Union Square, Brickbottom, and Magoun Square, all of which will be stops on the extension. But very few people had heard of Davis Square before the Red Line was extended there in 1984, and Somerville is counting on similar results for the rest of the city. However, across the border in Medford, residents are, while not wholly opposed to the extension, more apprehensive than their neighbors. The extension planned to extend all the way to the Mystic River at Route 16 but Medford may only receive one stop at Medford Hillside, on the northeastern corner of the Tufts campus at College Avenue. (The stop serving Somerville’s Ball Square will technically be located in Medford.)
If the Route 16 stop is even built, it will be a neighborhood stop, without parking, unlike most of the T’s terminal stations. The plan for parking was thrown out because of opposition from Medford residents, who contend that the addition of a parking garage or even a large lot would worsen the already congested traffic situation along Route 16. Some of the Green Line’s most ardent supporters in Medford oppose the parking facility because they believe that it would defeat the objective of making Medford the sort of community of the sort where cars are unnecessary.
However, there is an downside underside to the addition of rail-based transit which would be incredibly apparent to any Somerville resident who saw the Davis Square of 2008 and compared it with that before the arrival of the Red Line. The result of the MBTA’s advance northward was the rapid gentrification of the area, creating an island of young wealth in historically blue-collar Somerville, thereby uprooting many long-time residents and businesses, replacing them with graduate students and Starbucks due to increased rents and changing tastes. While many in Medford are already skeptical, would Somerville residents support the extension as wholeheartedly if they were fully aware of how it might upset the equilibrium of their community?