Elected officials say ‘yes’ to trolleys, ‘no’ to buses

Ten local elected officials are urging MassDOT to approve a $3 million appropriation to fund the continuation of the Mattapan trolley line. In a letter acquired by the Reporter, the politicians express their strong opposition to any thought of paving over the tracks and replacing the high-speed trolleys with shuttle buses.

The signatories include state Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, state Reps. Dan Cullinane and Dan Hunt, and City Councillors Michelle Wu, Tim McCarthy, Frank Baker, Andrea Campbell, Annissa Essaibi-George, Michael Flaherty, and Ayanna Pressley.

“We do not believe it to be in the best interest of the communities and residents we represent to have the trolley line converted to a shuttle bus system,” the officials wrote, citing the historic nature of the trolley line and the adverse effect on residential property values along the line should buses be implemented.

In their letter, they “emphatically advocate” for keeping trolleys as the service vehicles for the line, preferably the existing Presidential Cable Cars (PCCs). They also wrote that the thousands of daily riders who rely on the line and would be underserved if it were to be reconfigured.

The economic fallout could be just as significant, the electeds assert, writing that a shuttle bus system “has the potential to literally shut down the multi-million dollar economic development proposals already in the RFP process for the Mattapan MBTA Station Parking Lot parcel.”

With respect to that point, the politicians cited a potential developer’s statement in a Reporter article on the Mattapan lot. Mathieu Zahler of Trinity Financial, one of two developers who have submitted bids in response to the Request for Proposals, said that easy access to the Mattapan high-speed trolley service next door is critical, and if the MBTA were to eliminate the trolley service, the Trinity project would not proceed.

The $3 million investment proposal is set to come before the MBTA board next week in the midst of conversations fraught with concerns about the authority’s strained finances.  

“We understand that the problems of operating an aging fleet in a harsh climate are real,” the elected officials’ letter said. “We understand as we look to the future of the whole MBTA system that hard choices need to be made.”

But solutions exist, the politicians added, and discussion could give rise to innovative work partnerships. The trolley’s historical value and the negative economic ripple effects if it were removed, they wrote, make a compelling case for preserving the line and its classic carriages.