MA: Mayors Push MVRTA to Allow Passengers to Carry More Bags

July 31--HAVERHILL -- Market Basket customers from Lawrence and Haverhill who are now riding buses to go on shopping trips at distant stores can carry more bags on board than were previously allowed.

As employees continue to hold signs and stage rallies during work hours in support of the reinstatement of ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas, Market Basket stores have seen little restocking in terms of perishable items such as produce, meats and dairy products. This has forced customers to shop at other markets that in many cases are more distant than they are used to traveling. For those shoppers, many of whom don't own a vehicle and used to walk to their local Market Basket, it now means having to take a bus to shop for food.

To make those trips worthwhile, the mayors of Lawrence and Haverhill approached Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority officials to urge them to allow riders to bring more groceries on board than they've been allowed up until this week. On Tuesday, the mayors announced that the MVRTA agreed to their request and will temporarily change their passenger bag policy from two bags to four.

"Two constituents came to see me on Monday and said they went to another store and took the bus, but weren't allowed to get back on the bus because of the two-bag limit, so they walked home and when they got home a few items had spoiled," said Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini.

Fiorentini and Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera said that people need a place to shop for their families and must be able to get their groceries home. Haverhill has three Market Basket stores and Lawrence has one.

"My priority is solely our residents," Fiorentini said. "We need options and flexibility when it comes to providing the basic needs for our families, like groceries. When there is a critical need, it is important to be flexible and solve the problem."

Fiorentini said he appreciates the support of the MVRTA with their quick response to his and Rivera's request.

"They are a true partner in our city and their support of our residents is tremendous," Fiorentini said.

Rivera said that in a city of just 6.7 square miles, many Lawrence residents shop at the Market Basket on Essex Street and walk there to do so. With Market Basket store shelves, refrigerators and freezers largely empty, they need to travel to other stores by bus.

"Our residents need to be able to utilize public transportation regardless of the bags they carry," Rivera said. "I thank the MVRTA for their support as Market Basket resolves their problem."

Rivera is chairman of the MVRTA's advisory board and Fiorentini's chief of staff, David Van Dam, is vice chairman.

Copyright 2014 - The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.