By Julie McCay Turner
The Commuter Rail Communities Coalition, a group of municipal leaders served by the MBTA’s rail network, elected its first co-chairs, Mayor Tom McGee of Lynn and Bedford Town Manager Sarah Stanton, in Boston on March 12, 2019.
With a seat at the table as important regional transportation decisions are made, Stanton looks forward to working with Mayor McGee. As a state senator representing the Third Essex district in the Massachusetts Senate from 2002 to 2017, McGee joined the Joint Committee on Transportation in 2001 then served as its chair from 2011 until his retirement in 2018.
“This group of municipal leaders is collectively focused on the urgency of system-wide improvements for the entire region,” said Stanton. “Our entire transportation network needs an upgrade, and the rail network is a big part of that. We need to be continually improving the service that people depend upon daily.”
Although Bedford’s rail bed became part of the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway in 1993, the Town has long been a member of the Transportation for Massachusetts Partnership Program, seeking to modernize and transform mobility in Massachusetts.
Bedford’s nearest commuter rail options are Concord on the Fitchburg Line, a 5-mile, 15-minute drive; and North Billerica on the Lowell Line, an 8-mile, 20-minute drive from Bedford Center. The Town is served by MBTA bus route 62.
“Transportation is one of the purest forms of equity,” Stanton noted. “All communities should have effective means for getting from home to work and from place to place without having to rely on private automobiles.”
About the Commuter Rail Communities Coalition
The coalition, representing 175 communities, seeks to unify municipal advocacy for service improvements and long-range transformation of the commuter rail network, which currently serves more than 130,000 daily riders and has the potential to serve many more.
“It is an honor to help lead this group at a pivotal time for public transportation,” said Mayor McGee. “In the City of Lynn, and all across Eastern Massachusetts, rail is crucial for economic opportunity and a valuable tool to combat our climate crisis and to combat congestion. Local leaders are setting out ambitious goals, and I am honored to help lead this coalition to make sure we achieve them.”
The municipal leaders’ coalition also received an update from MassDOT on the MBTA Rail Vision Study, a comprehensive project that is setting out alternative scenarios to upgrade the commuter rail network. That study will wrap up later this year, when the MBTA and MassDOT Board will be asked to endorse a vision for the future of the rail network.
The municipal coalition’s policy priorities for the MBTA Commuter Rail system include modernizing and electrifying the rail system, using rail as part of a strategy to reduce transportation-sourced carbon emissions, promoting first- and last-mile and other connections, and supporting housing development close to transit. The Coalition will support these priorities through communications with the public, Governor Charlie Baker, state legislators, and the MBTA and MassDOT.
Established in June 2018, the coalition of area mayors and town managers meets quarterly and is supported by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the 495/MetroWest Partnership, the MBTA Advisory Board, TransitMatters, and the Transportation for Massachusetts Coalition. More information, including the group’s charter, and the full list of policy priorities is available at t4ma.org/commuter_rail.