For Immediate Release


Kyla Bennett (508) 230-9933; Luke Eshleman (202) 265-7337

Ridership for Stoughton Line Falls as Costs Rise

Worst Eco-Alternative Rail Line Will Cost Massachusetts $800,000 per Commuter

BOSTON - The state's official estimates of ridership for the controversial
Fall River/New Bedford rail line to Boston have fallen by nearly a fifth since
2002 while costs continue to swell, according to figures released today by
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). As a result, construction
costs for the state's preferred alternative transit plan, which would
plow through Massachusetts' largest freshwater wetland, the Hockomock
Swamp, will be approximately $800,000 per commuter

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), a state agency, is
pushing a plan to bisect the Hockomock with a commuter rail line to bring people
from New Bedford and Fall River to Boston. MBTA contends that this route is
superior to alternatives, yet -

  • Ridership figures presented for the first time last week to the
    Southeastern Massachusetts Commuter Rail Task Force indicate that MBTA projects
    only 2,500 new round trip riders for the New Bedford line. This estimate
    is a significant dip from the estimated 2,953 new riders MBTA projected back
    in 2002;
  • Ridership estimates for the Middleboro Alternative do not take into
    account the proposed Middleboro casino, which potentially involves thousands
    workers and tens of thousands of visitors per day. By contrast, rapid
    bus (dedicated lane, flexible fuel) has an estimated ridership of 1,750 new
    riders, but it is much less damaging, a fraction of the cost and much faster
    than rail; and
  • The estimated cost for the New Bedford project is $1.4 billion without
    mitigation. Adding required environmental mitigation will push the final
    cost over $2 billion. This would mean that the project will spend approximately
    $800,000 for each new commuter.

"For $800,000 we could fly each commuter to New Bedford every day in
a helicopter," stated New England PEER Director Kyla Bennett, who noted
that the job creation rationale for the project also makes little sense. "Massachusetts
has no shortage of projects that will put people to work and make economic
sense. Why push this boondoggle to the head of the line?"


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Ironically, MBTA submitted its Environmental Notification Form without the
ridership figures and then requested an extension citing the lack of ridership
figures. Now that the paltry ridership numbers are in, the state will have
a hard time justifying the destruction of one of the most ecologically important
wetlands in the northeast.

"MBTA is already facing a projected $142 million deficit for the coming
year," Bennett added. "Using federal stimulus money on this project
will stimulate us all to the poorhouse."


Look at declining ridership estimates

See the overdue state ridership report


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Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.

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