By Rebeca Oliveira and John Ruch/Gazette Staff
The MBTA has quietly restored some of the Green Line streetcar’s runs to Heath Street, which had been eliminated last year as part of controversial budget-related service cuts. But the MBTA’s budget crisis hasn’t gone away and it may face “unpleasant choices” again this year, according to spokesperson Joe Pesaturo.
Last July, the MBTA stopped running the E branch of the Green Line all the way to the end of the line at the Heath Street stop on S. Huntington Avenue. Instead, the service halted at Brigham Circle at Huntington Avenue and Tremont Street.
Starting in October, the MBTA began experimenting with running some of those weekend trains all the way to Heath Street, without changing the schedule or adding any trains or personnel. The experiment worked and the partial weekend service is now part of the official T schedule.
“Customers seemed to respond favorably to the change, and the decision was made to make it permanent,” Pesaturo said in an email to the Gazette.
The Green Line cutback was among the most controversial parts of the service cuts and fare hikes the MBTA announced last year in response to its massive debt and other budget troubles. Hundreds of people protested the decisions at two local community meetings hosted by the MBTA.
Service cuts and fare hikes could be on the table again this year. The MBTA faces a budget gap of approximately $132 million to $140 million—a bit lower than last year’s gap.
“If a legislative solution is not identified by the spring, the MBTA will have no choice but to present the [MBTA] board of directors with some unpleasant choices for balancing the [fiscal year 2014] budget,” Pesaturo said.
The MBTA has hosted several public meetings about this year’s budget situation, but unlike last year, none of them have been held locally.