Who would be in favor of continuing a practice that denies two oft-oppressed constituencies in our community the same benefits as everyone?
No one, I would think. But that essentially is what opposition to studying the Green Line Extension to West Medford/Route 16 translates to. It denies two underserved populations — people with disabilities and environmental justice communities — the opportunity for equal access to public transportation; cleaner air; and a voice in the planning and decision-making process.
People with Disabilities
Some opponents to the Green Line Extension say it is unnecessary because West Medford already is served by the commuter rail and buses. In addition to being infrequent — as much as 3.5 hours between trains on weekends — and unreliable — NO bus routes serving Medford meet MBTA on-time service standards, these modes are virtually inaccessible to people with disabilities.
If one is in a wheelchair, it is impossible to get on or off the commuter rail at West Medford. The MBTA has recently added some low-floor and lift-equipped buses, but not all vehicles have these features. Moreover, less than 10 percent of the MBTA bus stops provide any kind of shelter for waiting passengers.
Green Line stations would eliminate these flaws. Each would be 100 percent accessible and compliant with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act. All would have level-boarding to accommodate wheelchairs, and those using walkers or canes. All would provide shelter for waiting passengers.
Trolley service would be vastly superior to the commuter rail and buses, operating several times per hour and without interference from auto traffic. It would also eliminate having to transfer from one mode (bus or train) to another (subway).
Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.
The federal government has identified Environmental Justice as an important goal in transportation planning to ensure that the allocation of benefits and burdens of services and projects are equitable. Traditionally, this has not always been the case. EJ communities have often been underserved by cleaner public transportation services and overburdened by the environmental effects of higher polluting modes, as well as highways.
EJ is an integral consideration of the Green Line Extension project, as it is a part of the State Implementation Plan for compliance with the Clean Air Act.
EJ communities are determined by their ranking in five criteria: percent of minority population, foreign-born population, and population not fluent in English; percent of zero-vehicle households; and median household income.
Three of the six census tracts in Medford that are part of the Green Line corridor study area meet the Environmental Justice criteria: Tract 3397 (Harvard Street-Main Street-Mystic Avenue area); and Tracts 3393 and 3394 (West Medford, on either side of the Mystic River). Portions of Tracts 3395 and 3396, between Boston Avenue and the Somerville line, also are considered Environmental Justice communities in the project study area.
Let’s not continue a pattern of denial to these constituencies of equitable public transportation services, cleaner air, and a voice in the process. Study the possibility of extending the Green Line as far as Route 16, for the greatest benefit to all.
— Ken Krause is a Medford resident and part of the Medford Green Line Neighborhood Alliance.
- Published in the Medford Transcript, June 28, 2007