When the status quo of our transportation system is not working for the majority of residents in the city of Lynn, we as residents, employers and elected officials must become agents of change.
For years, I have worked to lay the foundation to enable water transportation from the city of Lynn and to build a coalition of support within the community and the region. Together, we see water transportation as a catalyst for change that will bring economic opportunities not only to our city, but to all coastal communities in the Commonwealth, improving the quality of life for our residents who spend too many hours sitting in traffic under time pressure trying to get to work, a medical appointment, or to pick up their children at the end of the day.
With more development planned on Route 1A, with lane closures on the Tobin Bridge starting next spring and lasting for several years, and with expansion underway at Logan Airport, our congested roadways are only going to get worse.
As we saw this past summer with the ripple effects and citywide gridlock caused by an accident on the General Edwards Bridge during rush hour, we need better transit alternatives and we cannot sit idly by and accept these commuter conditions. We must seek solutions that will give our transit system greater resiliency, provide reliability for transit riders, and improve our quality of life.
We must ask ourselves, how can we afford not to make transit investments that will alleviate the congestion that we face and that will allow us to attract homeowners and employers to our city? For me, the answer has always been about finding ways to improve transit connections. Commuter rail service improvements and a Blue Line extension are cost prohibitive given the T’s financial situation and would not provide relief in the near term due to the planning and permitting requirements of major projects or procurements.
While those improvements must continue to be part of our long term regional transportation plans, right now, without a doubt, the best solution to our region’s collective commuter woes is to look to our natural resources as a coastal state and invest in water transportation.
Across Massachusetts Bay, water transportation can be implemented relatively quickly with a fraction of the investment that improved or expanded commuter rail or subway service would require. Water transportation allows us to capitalize on our coastline and leverage the fact that our international airport, financial and business centers, medical facilities, and institutes of higher learning can all be accessed via landside connections with water transportation.
Water transportation has the highest reliability for on-time service and the highest farebox recovery ratio of all modes of transit in the Commonwealth. Water transportation can operate in all kinds of weather year-round. Water transportation offers convenient, stress-free and affordable service that gives passengers extra hours in their day to utilize for productivity, relaxation or socializing.
Water transportation will increase tourism to and from the North and South Shores. Water transportation would improve the resiliency of our current transit system which is challenged by aging vehicles and outdated equipment. Water transportation can reduce pollution by reducing the number of cars that idle in traffic on our roads each day. Water transportation can provide recreational opportunities for residents and tourists to visit the Harbor Islands and Cape Cod. Water transportation can transform our regional economy by increasing property values, attracting tourists, and bringing business opportunities.
To those who say water transportation is nothing more than an amenity, consider what is coming when lane closures start on the Tobin Bridge later this year, as Logan airport expands service and adds departures, and as new corporations move their headquarters into greater Boston, with some as large as Amazon potentially locating on the North Shore at the Suffolk Downs site.
Without better transit options for the North Shore, our residents will be cut off from job opportunities, our communities will miss out on increased demand for commercial and residential real estate, and our region will not realize its enormous potential for economic growth. I invite you to reimagine daily commuting to Boston via the water. Envision the difference that it will make to our economy and our daily lives when we have a dedicated vessel running multiple round trips each day all year long. Imagine the possibilities of what easy access to and from Boston can mean for our region.
I hope you will join me in advocating strongly for year round ferry service from Lynn to Boston, and to see the possibilities as we chart a course for the future of our city and our region.
Thomas M. McGee represents Lynn, Lynnfield, Marblehead, Nahant, Saugus and Swampscott in the state Senate. He is a candidate for mayor of Lynn.
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