City, News

Riders protest MBTA line cuts on bus route 55

State representatives riding 55 bus
From left to right: Boston City Councilor Kenzie Bok and State Representatives Jay Livingstone and Jon Santiago ride the 55 bus in Fenway on Sunday. Residents rallied for the 55’s return to its pre-pandemic schedule and route. KAITO AU/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Riders of bus route 55 protested the shortened bus hours and removal of the Park Street stop by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority on Sunday afternoon. 

Protesters sported slogans like “Public Transit is Public Good” and “Fenway [hearts] the 55” at  the “Ride the 5” rally, hosted by Fenway Community Development Corporation to restore the bus line’s pre-pandemic schedule and reinstate its Park Street stop.

The MBTA announced last year that due to low ridership likely caused by the COVID-19 pandemic they planned to alter their public transportation systems by suspending service for nine bus routes and consolidating another seven in early March this year. 

The 55 was on the suspension list until Fenway community organizations assembled to bring back the route. Fenway CDC partnered with City Councilor Kenzie Bok to rally for the 55 route’s reinstatement.

The initial complaints were successful in returning the 55 to Fenway residents, but with a few changes: The bus hours weren’t fully replenished and shrunk from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. to 10 a.m. to 3:40 p.m., and the final stop changed from Park Street to Copley Station.

According to a press release from a Fenway CDC organizer, the MBTA cited low ridership from the 55 as the reason for its cuts, yet she wrote it runs a “critical route for many residents’ day-to-day commuting, including elders and residents with low or fixed incomes.”

The new hours don’t accommodate those who work schedules similar to the classic 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. hours or those commuting to and from early morning appointments or senior-safety-focused grocery shopping hours held in the early morning, inconveniencing seniors, students and young professionals in the area.

Until recently, Fenway resident Marie Fukuda, who has lived in the area since 1985, would take the 55 route to Massachusetts General Hospital, where she works as a clinical research coordinator.

“I’d take the bus going downtown, up Beacon Hill and then walk down the hill from there,” she said. “It was a very convenient transit until the service stopped.”

Tracey Hunt, the community coordinator for the Peterborough senior center and over 30 years Fenway resident, explains that many members of the senior community use the 55.

“They are very upset because they can’t get to Park Street,” Hunt said. “A lot of them can’t go down the stairs of the Copley [station] because it is not accessible. We have a senior shuttle … but that’s only limited time. So, it would be great to have this service back on track.”

Another Fenway resident, college student Victoria Levina, has used the Green Line as her main source of transportation since moving to the area a month ago and said she would use the bus if hours were extended.

“[The Green Line] is a far walk,” she said. “Having something that runs right here would definitely be very convenient.”

There are other public transit stations around the Fenway area, but those extra few blocks are harder for older residents who might use canes or walkers, according to Hunt.

Fenway Civic Association, Fenway CDC, Fenway residents and other local organizations are continuing  the fight through weekly coffee and conversation meetings at Ramler Park.

According to Fukuda, the bus’s return is a community effort that they will continue to work towards.  

“We have some responsibility,” she said. “We’re ready to work to try and make the case [for reinstatement] and in the meantime we’re going to continue rallying like this.”

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