Like on any other day, Bus 48 rolled through the center of Jamaica Plain past the shops and popular restaurants on Centre Street, then turned and passed the rows of houses and apartments on Lamartine before reaching Jackson Square.
But for the dozen or so afternoon passengers, it was no ordinary trip Wednesday afternoon. In addition to their grocery bags, portable push carts, and canes, the mostly older group carried a sense of betrayal: Bus 48 is on the chopping block.
The route is among four the MTBA plans to eliminate as it seeks to close a $160 million deficit for the upcoming budget year.
For regular passengers, the route is more than just a number; it’s a lifeline.
“They had all of those meetings, and we told them we can’t get to work, school or get our shopping done, and they still aren’t listening,’’ Jenny Ebanks, a 65-year-old Jamaica Plain resident who works part time for Boston public schools, said as the bus clattered along. “I really do need the service. I have no other alternatives. They are in the red, but, guess what, the average person is in the red, too.’’
Sam J. Brown, 69, said he rides the 48 almost every day.
“I depend on this bus to go grocery shopping, to the bank, and do all my errands,’’ he said. “If it’s eliminated there will be nothing for me.’’
The MBTA says it hopes to avoid deep cuts to service across the system by cutting several of its nearly 200 bus routes and reducing runs on 14 other bus routes.
To be sure, Bus 48 serves comparatively few riders. It ranks 175th in ridership, with an average of only 85 weekday boarders, according to a 2010 Blue Book Study by the T
But on Wednesday the riders were not buying the T’s logic. Eliminating the bus route, they said, punishes those who most depend on public transportation.
“If they wanted to raise prices, how can they do that and eliminate buses?’’ said Grenda Grayson, 53, a Jamaica Plain resident who uses the 48 weekly to get to shops on Centre Street. “I would have to get a ride or walk, but others don’t have that option. It’s just unfair.’’
Although Ebanks said she does not know how to address the T’s budget deficit or how to boost ridership on the route, she said something has to be done to protect those who use it.
“It’s a big burden, and we didn’t cause it,’’ Ebanks said. “It’s like David and Goliath, and David needs help.’’Patrick D. Rosso can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PDRosso.