Last week, TransitMatters released a sweeping vision for regional rail in the region. Please read it. I’ll wait here.
TransitMatters is a group of transit-obsessed citizens trying to make transit work better for Boston. What they’ve done in the Regional Rail for Metropolitan Boston report is apply their geeky transit understanding and their deep concern for sustainable transportation in the region to imagine an inter-city rail system that abandons the outdated commuter-rail notion — bring folks into Boston from the suburbs in the morning and get them home at night — for a more expanded notion of inter-city rail with frequency that supports both commuters to downtown, but also those who would like to move between towns and cities in both directions at all times of day. It’s a vision that could not only shift transportation modes, but transform land use at every stop along every line. Imagine the conversation we’d be having about Washington St. development if there were trains in both directions from West Newton and Newtonville (and Auburndale) every 30 minutes or more frequently!
What’s amazing about the report is not just the scope and clarity of the vision, but the compelling case TransitMatters makes for the economic necessity of it. A regional rail system needs only a rethinking of capital priorities and a redirection of investment to deliver the substantial benefits it offers over the commuter rail model. Those investments include electrifying all regional lines, raising platforms for direct entry to trains, and creating the North/South Rail Link between North and South Stations.
Back to Newton, TransitMatter’s regional rail vision would mean regular, dependable service not only between Newton and Boston, but also between Newton and Wellesley, Natick, Framingham, Southborough, and Worcester. Imagine folks living in the Orr Block who want to go shop in Wellesley without negotiating traffic. Have lunch with friends in Natick Center. Head out to Worcester for the day. Take a ride into the new Allston neighborhood that will be built around West Station in the old Beacon Park Yard and walk down to the Charles.
A key nugget in the TransitMatters report: they propose eliminating the Needham Line and replacing it, in part, with the long-proposed Green Line extension along Needham Street in Newton and on into Needham Heights.
The vision that TransitMatters has laid out in their Regional Rail report would provide significant benefit to Newton. The city should embrace and advocate for the vision.