Stonehill Students Survey Public Opinion on Rail Project
December 24, 2010
The Easton Journal
Caroline Hanly '11
Meghan Schuster '11
Erica Stewart '11
Christina Teoli '12
In a time of economic struggle, many Massachusetts citizens find themselves out of work. In order to provide residents of the South Shore with increased job opportunities in Boston, Governor Deval Patrick and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation have teamed up to create the South Coast Rail project. This project would build a commuter rail between Boston, Fall River, and New Bedford, and would include a stop in North Easton at the Shovel Shops.
Though the project is aiming to be environmentally conscious as possible through the development of the rail, the preferred route of the train would be through the Hockomock Swamp, which is the largest freshwater wetland in Massachusetts.
Environmental advocacy groups, such as Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), have expressed concern about the possible damages that the South Coast Rail may cause the Hockomock Swamp and the species of wildlife that call the swamp their home.
A proposed alternative to the commuter rail is a dedicated highway lane that would use rapid speed electric buses. This option would not pose as many environmental risks as the train, and would also cost about 40 percent less.
Since both of these methods of transportation would affect Easton residents substantially, we decided to conduct a phone survey so we can begin to understand how the general public feels about the proposal.
Using a list of phone numbers generated by a simple random sample, we called about 200 Easton residents, with only 30 respondents. After providing each resident with a brief informational paragraph, we asked five yes/no questions regarding their support and use of the commuter rail and/or bus. One of these five questions addressed the potential economic benefits and possible environmental risks.
Our results show that 40 percent of those surveyed support the train, while 67 percent support the bus. On the other hand, 43 percent stated that they would use the train, and 47 percent would use the bus.
Although these results do not show a stark separation in public opinion, it shed light on how Easton residents are more likely to support the bus than the commuter rail. Moreover, 60 percent of those surveyed were more concerned with the environmental risks of the project than with the economic benefits that may result.
After performing an analysis of our pilot study, we believe there s still more work to be done concerning the awareness of the South Coast Rail and its repercussions.
We recommend that a further study be conducted so that Easton residents can fully understand the environmental risks that may come about through building the train route through the Hockomock Swamp. We hope that Easton residents keep in mind that damage to their environment can be even more harmful than an economic recession.
Caroline Hanly, Meghan Schuster, Erica Stewart, and Christina Teoli are current students at Stonehill College taking the course Principles of Environmental Science with Professor Susan Mooney. They have conducted a research project centered on the South Coast Rail project.
For more information, contact Communications and Media Relations at 508-565-1321.