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Call for MetroWest Transit Authority

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Editorial: MBTA is a one way street

Monday, July 12, 2004

MetroWest communities pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to support the MBTA. What they get for those assessments is debatable. Yes, we have the commuter rail, but its schedule is Boston-centric: In the morning the trains go east, in the afternoon, west. For years, the MBTA has ignored pleas to make it easier for Boston area residents to commute to jobs in MetroWest.

The MBTA has also resisted efforts to make it easier to get around MetroWest. Just last week, the MBTA pulled the plug on LIFT buses connecting Milford and Hopkinton to Framingham, stranding hundreds of riders. The pleadings of residents and elected officials to keep the service alive went unheeded.

The MBTA has always been, and will always be, about the needs of Boston. But MetroWest has needs, too, and they are going unmet. "They take our money and they have nothing in their capital plan for us for the next five years," Kathy Bartolini, Framingham's director of planning and development, told the Daily News.

MetroWest is no longer Boston's bedroom. A recent analysis of 2000 U.S. Census data found that 57 percent of MetroWest residents commute to work within the region, up from 40 percent a decade ago.

As our roads grow ever more clogged with those commuters, it becomes ever more clear that public transportation must expanded. And with each state budget it becomes more clear that the MBTA wants no part of responding to that need.

That's why for the last several years, regional business and civic leaders have been trying to establish a regional transportation authority (RTA) for MetroWest and the I-495 corridor. But that takes approval from the Legislature, and previous efforts have met resistance from the MBTA and the Worcester RTA.

Local leaders aren't giving up. Sens. David Magnani, D-Framingham, and Pam Resor, D-Acton, have added a provision to the transportation bond bill now before the Senate that would allow MetroWest communities to create an RTA. We hope the provision survives this week's expected Senate vote. But there is no matching provision in the House version of the bond bill, so it will have to survive a conference committee to make it into the final legislation.

We hope local legislators will keep pushing for the RTA, and we encourage Gov. Romney and others with statewide responsibilities or statewide ambitions to join them. The MetroWest/495 region is a vital driver of the state's economy and its voters have growing political clout. It's time this region stopped being shortchanged when it comes to public transportation.

From MetroWest Daily News

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