QUINCY, Mass.—Three MBTA boat commuters fought for tradition at this evening's annual service planning meeting held in City Hall.

The graying male trio said they represented a group of over 30 riders who will be affected by the route changes proposed by the service planning team. Though they came separately, all three attendees attacked the proposed elimination of the 8:30 p.m. boat route from the Hingham Shipyard in Hingham to Rowes Wharf in Boston.

"People who take the boat... do it because it's a way of life," was Charles Hayes' statement to the MBTA. Hayes and party had the undivided attention of the MBTA service planning team. In a room with 40 seats and space for 40 more, the small group were the only attendants who were not affiliated with the MBTA, the media or a government agency.

The new Greenbush commuter rail service to South Station, which opened in October of 2007, absorbed many commuter boat patrons, says Hayes. The claim is reminiscent to that of privately owned bus provider JBL, who argued that ridership significantly fell after Greenbush opened in Weymouth, causing them to discontinue service there.

Service plan manager Melissa Dullea was part of the team that extended commuter rail service into Weymouth.

"Ridership on boats, generally, is lower with Greenbush being open," admitted Dullea. However, Dullea said that the lack of customers was what identified the 8:30 p.m. boat as a "low-hanging fruit" subject to cuts.

According to Dullea, the routes targeted in the service plan are those that have a net cost per passenger that is greater than three times the subsidy for that type of transportation. The 8:30 p.m. commuter boat, for instance, costs the MBTA over $27 per passenger. Though the system-wide subsidy for commuter boats was not mentioned at the meeting, the average was 90 cents in 2004. The Service Plan team have yet to respond to questions regarding the subsidies in place.

Dullea and Hayes may cross paths once more at the September 15 meeting in Weymouth, which Hayes says he will likely attend.

"Clearly, [Hayes] knew what was going on," said Dullea, following the meeting.

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