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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

MBTA removes slow zones on the Green Line

Medford City Council president says the GLX is a net positive for the city, despite hiccups.


The Green Line is pictured in April 2021.

The MBTA has restored service to Union Square ahead of schedule and lifted all speed restrictions on the Green Line Extension, Phillip Eng, MBTA general manager and CEO, announced in an Oct. 11 press release.

The GLX extends from Lechmere Station through Tufts’ host communities of Medford and Somerville, with branches terminating at Union Square and at the Medford/Tufts station next to the Joyce Cummings Center.

“The MBTA has removed all of the Green Line speed restrictions on both the Union Station branch and the Medford/Tufts Station branch,” he wrote in a press statement sent to the Daily. “Green Line trains today are traveling at regular line speeds on both branches. I wish to thank our riders for their patience while MassDOT completed the bridge project and we addressed the track defects discovered during an inspection last month.”

Eng’s announcement comes after weeks of service irregularities on the GLX caused by construction on the Squires Bridge in Somerville, as well as the unrelated imposition of nine speed-restricted zones on the Green Line in which trains could travel at no more than three miles per hour.

Service on the Medford/Tufts branch of the Green Line began in December 2022, following years of false starts and construction delays. Over the summer, the T suspended service to Union Square for more than a month to make repairs. Then, in September, the Boston Globe reported that the GLX’s tracks were too narrow in places, meaning trains traveling at full speed were at risk of derailment. The MBTA dispatched crews to repair the defective areas, but officials say they don’t know how the tracks narrowed to begin with.

Nicole Morell, president of the Medford City Council and the city’s representative to the GLX Community Working Group, believes that the extension has been and will continue to be of great benefit to residents of Medford and Somerville.  

“I think it’s been great,” Morell told the Daily. “It allows people to commute to their jobs, [and] it allows for transit-oriented development.” Transit-oriented development is an urban planning strategy that centers commercial and residential developments around public transportation systems.

“The Green Line Extension has made a tremendous impact in Medford, from real estate prices to accessibility,” Morell said. “We’re seeing … folks that have businesses that want to locate here and they cite the Green Line Extension as one reason for wanting to be in Medford. I think that’s important because it brings jobs for local people in Medford, and it also brings taxpayers to the city.”  

She acknowledged, however, that not all of the line’s purported benefits have been equally distributed among the city’s population. Although the rise in real estate prices has been well-received by those who already own their homes, Morell conceded that the increase in rent has been harmful to Medford’s less affluent residents.  

“I think [rising real estate prices are] a challenge right now in that there’s not a lot of stock, and the prices are really high,” she said. “It changes the demographics of the city; it prices people out. … I think the inability of folks to live where they want because they’re priced out is a bad thing — or just [to] live where they need to be, live with their families, live where their jobs are, live in the only place they’ve known.”

Although Morell has chosen not to run for re-election this November, her tenure as City Council president runs through the end of the year, and she assured the Daily that increasing access to public transportation is something she will continue to prioritize, both on the council and off. Specifically, she wants to see an extension of the Somerville Community Path into Medford and an increase in the frequency of Green Line trains. 

Joanna Yao, a first-year who uses the GLX to get to Tufts’ Fenway campus about once a week for her classes at the SMFA, shared some of Morell’s feelings. Yao thinks the Green Line is a cheap and accessible option for getting around Boston, but questions its reliability. 

Yao, like Morell, wants to see an increase in the frequency of Medford/Tufts trains, noting that the transit experience was not reliable “in terms of speed.”

With regards to incentivizing commuters to take the Green Line over speedier modes of transportation, Morell cited her own experience, noting the often-unconsidered advantages to taking public transit.  

“Maybe it’s a little bit slower, or maybe it’s the same amount of time, but I have both my hands free. Maybe I can get a little work done or something like that on the way,” she said.