OPINION | Chris McCarthy: Is a Train Actually Coming?
Do you believe the train is coming to the SouthCoast this time? It is an election year and a governor has once again promised to make the Boston to SouthCoast commuter rail “a reality." Please forgive me if I don’t immediately get excited about this promise. I have heard this before. I have heard it from Republicans and I have heard it from Democrats. I have heard the same promise from incumbents and challenges when they have visited our region for votes.
It is unfair to judge Charlie Baker by the hollow promises and broken commitments of former governors. It’s unfair but it is not irrational. What makes Baker able to do what Governors Dukakis, Weld, Cellucci, Swift, Romney, and Patrick couldn’t accomplish? The current plan makes the ride even longer than the original route through Stoughton.
The study done on ridership and revenue showed the cost of SouthCoast route would be at least $25 million a year to the transportation system, due to a lack of riders. A slower train will obviously have fewer users, and therefore require more financial support from an already cash-strapped state system of public transportation.
I can also see local support evaporating for the train when the realities of the local communities having to pay for the privilege of having the train come into focus. The cities of New Bedford and Fall River, both cash-strapped, will soon have to send hundreds of thousands of dollars to the MBTA. The majority of the people on the SouthCoast will never use the commuter rail, but they will pay a tax for having the option. Local government will have to cut something from their budget or raise the taxes to cover this new cost.
The train from Boston to the SouthCoast has become an irrational obsession for many rather than a well thought out public improvement. “We deserve it” has replaced rational thought on the virtues of the project.
Editor’s Note: Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m.-Noon. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.