Published in the November 24, 2015 edition

WAKEFIELD — The town’s Beacon Hill delegation urged MBTA officials at a meeting yesterday to suspend implementation of a new commuter rail schedule that eliminates Wakefield as a stop on the outbound 5:15 p.m. train from North Station.
State Sen. Jason Lewis, State Rep. Paul Brodeur, State Rep. Donald Wong along with others sent out this statement after the meeting.
“As elected representatives of communities north and west of Boston that are negatively impacted by recently announced cuts to commuter rail service, we and our staffs met with representatives of the Massachusetts Bay Transportations Authority (MBTA) and Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) earlier today. We explained to the MBTA what we have heard from our constituents – that the service cuts represented in the schedule create substantial hardships and we also explained that the lack of public process surrounding the development of the new schedules was deeply concerning. We requested that the MBTA suspend implementation of the proposed new schedules that would create substantial hardships on the day-to-day lives of our constituents and implement a public process prior to any future service cuts.
“We also shared stacks of constituent feedback as well as the names of more than 1,000 residents who had signed an online petition requesting service cuts be restored.
“The MBTA agreed to respond (today) to our request to suspend implementation.”
In addition to Brodeur, Wong and Lewis, the statement was signed by state Sen. Michael Barrett, Ken Donnelly, Pat Jehlen and Thomas McGee; and state Representatives Paul Donato, Michael Day, Sean Garballey and Christine Barber.
Last week, those same lawmakers wrote the following to administrators with Keolis and the MBTA:
“We are deeply concerned about proposed changes to the Haverhill and Lowell commuter rail lines, changes that reduce public transportation options for our constituents and which appear to have been put into place without the opportunity for our residents and districts to be heard.
“Recently you proposed amending 4 commuter line schedules for north of Boston. Of those 4, we are pleased for our colleagues and their constituents that you added 6 trips to the Newburyport/Rockport Line and an additional trip to the Fitchburg line. Regrettably, this gain for public transit access appears to have come at greater cost to our communities: the Lowell and Haverhill lines have each lost 7 daily train trips. Our constituents are naturally concerned – why, of all the commuter lines in the state, are ours targeted for service reductions?
“Some of these lost train trips come during the rush hour, when our constituents are trying to get to work or trying to get home to their families after a long day. Some examples of concerns our residents have raised:
• Wakefield is losing a prime rush hour train. Train #215, leaving North Station at 5:15 p.m. on the Haverhill line, sees only one change to its itinerary, the loss of the 5:35 p.m. stop in Wakefield. It is confounding as to how the de minimis time saved from the loss of this single stop can be an overall benefit when weighed against the substantial inconvenience imposed upon Wakefield-area commuters who would lose a stop right in the heart of evening rush hour.
• Winchester Center and West Medford lose a number of trains during morning rush hour. Among other impacts, this leaves working parents with school drop off or daycare responsibilities unable to both (1) drop their children off at school and (2) take the commuter rail. These parents live heavily scheduled lives that involve complicated commutes. After dropoff (which is constrained by school and daycare operating hours), they take the 8:39 a.m. train inbound, knowing there is the 8:52 a.m. train if they are running late or school drop-off is delayed for any reason. The newly-introduced schedule features an 8:28 a.m. train as the latest pre-9 a.m. train, with another train not passing through West Medford or Winchester Center until more than an hour later, at 9:43 a.m. This schedule makes it impossible for working parents of elementary school children to safely drop off their kids at school and still make it to work until after 10 a.m.
• Winchester residents who work past 5 p.m. will have fewer options. Currently, if one misses Train #337, leaving North Station at 6:25 p.m. on the Lowell line and arriving at Winchester Center at 6:44 p.m., one would take the 6:55 p.m. train (#221) arriving at 7:12 p.m. However, under the revised schedule, missing the 6:25 p.m. train out of North Station would require waiting a whole hour until a 7:25 p.m. train, which wouldn’t arrive at Winchester Center until 7:42 p.m.
• In sum, Wakefield service drops from 19 inbound and 22 outbound trips per day to 16 inbound and 17 outbound. Similarly, Winchester Center and West Medford service drops from 26 inbound and 23 outbound trips per day to 22 inbound and 22 outbound. The total service drop, coupled with Winchester’s new morning service gap and Wakefield’s new evening service gap leave these area’s residents more than just inconvenienced. With families scheduling work, school and other activities around public transportation, this degree of service change is simply unacceptable.
“We are concerned about the process through which these decisions were made, without seeking significant public input about the impact of such changes.
“Thank you for considering the concerns we have laid out in this letter. Your hard work in running the commuter rail service is greatly appreciated and we look forward to resolving these scheduling concerns in partnership with you.”