Tag Archives: public transportation

Speak out, WRTA riders!!! … and a message from MPS …

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Worcester’s inner-city population depends on buses and pedal-/foot-power to travel around the city. pic: R.T.

Join WCCC and other Organizations
from around the city to Speak Up about proposed WRTA Bus Rate Increases and to Request Affordable, Safe and Reliable Transportation for Everyone!

Tuesday, April 11

4:30 p.m.

at the Worcester Public Library

Speak up now or pay more later!!

Current fare: $3.50 for unlimited rides.

Proposed increase: $5.00 for 6 rides max

Call for more information: 508-796-1411 x 148

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From Mauro D. on the preservation of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel church:

Thank you for attending April 3rd’s dynamic general membership meeting!

Thanks to those who made themselves available for the film producers and, to those who could not not make it on camera due to time constraints, a special thank you for your patience and support.

If you were not on camera, please know there may be other opportunities to express your knowledge and experience of this horrible situation going on!

Your continued support is highly valued and needed.

It looks like our Meat Raffle fund raiser is off to a great start.

It takes place on April 22 at 1 PM at Union Tavern on 65 Green St.

Our appeal has been received by the Vatican and we are moving forward.

Prospects with a Barrister in Rome look very encouraging.

There will be a special prayer vigil at 9 am in front of St Paul’s Cathedral on TUESDAY, April 11, across the street from the entrance, near the parking lot of Denholms. If rides are needed, call a fellow member.

We invite everyone to attend our Sunday Prayer Vigil Sunday at 10 am at the Mount Carmel Apartments. A great place to meet and keep informed.

God Bless You and God Bless Our Lady of Mount Carmel!

Mauro
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http://www.preserveourladyofmountcarmel.org

Worcester’s WRTA bus system: designed to fail?

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WRTA bus at Worcester City Hall bus stop. What happened to all the free shuttle buses to the WRTA Hub/Union Station? We’ve got ’em – every 20 minutes or so … (photo: R.T.)

By Chris Horton

Don’t get me wrong.  I love public transportation.  I love trains, ships, trolleys. I used to even love planes and busses. But getting around in Worcester without a car really sucks.  And it doesn’t cheer me up when we’re told we have the best transit system in Massachusetts outside Metro Boston.  (Is that true? Really?)

When I need to go somewhere that’s not on my own bus line, a two-ride trip, I can pretty well count on long waits. I can expect missed connections.  Busses scheduled to run every 15 minutes often run in convoys – four busses playing leap-frog, then nearly an hour until the next batch.  This makes planning a trip very hard.  A one-hour appointment at 3 pm will usually take up my whole afternoon.  In rough weather I can expect to end up cold and wet. And I can expect to return home exhausted.  

(That is, if I can get there at all!)

Many people using the busses have needs far more urgent than mine.  I meet riders holding down two or even three jobs to make ends meet, dropping kids off at school or daycare providers, who say it’s a nightmare, as late busses and missed connections lead to firings.  At least I live near a supermarket and pharmacy; every day I see people lugging three or four overstuffed bags of groceries onto the buses and lugging them around town.

Then there’s the places the buses don’t go and the times they don’t run.  Every time the members of the Worcester Unemployment Action Group have discussed what our top issues are, the lack of bus service to where the jobs are is near the top.  Very few buses to outlying areas, virtually no buses to neighboring cities, routes where the first bus of the morning won’t get you to work on time or the last bus of the day get you home, jobs that are out of reach because there’s no Saturday service – these severely limit what job seekers can take, once they’ve joined the ranks of the carless.

Attending the WRTA Board meetings and hearings, looking at the way they make changes, what they pay attention to, it’s clear the bean-counters are in charge, and they are more concerned with perceptions than actually meeting their riders’ needs. This showed in their very expensive third-party rider survey, which was a checked-box machine-scored affair that didn’t uncover what changing routes around will really do to people who have chosen apartments and taken jobs based on the existing routes.

The new impossibly small and crowded $17 million Union Station Bus Hub is a monument to traffic engineering failure, and many riders bemoan the loss of being able to stop off downtown between buses. But it looks good on paper! (Was this part of the City Fathers’ plan to clear the “riff-raff” out of the Commons?)  Their sop to the complainers: a new Downtown Shuttle that only runs every 17 minutes – maybe!  

Soon they’ll be able to throw up their hands and say “Oh look!  We tried it, and it didn’t work!”  Their special trick like the bus the public was demanding that would run the length of Main Street all the way to Lincoln Square.  They put one on last year, running once an hour from Webster Plaza to Linclon Plaza – once an hour only on Saturday – and – Surprise! – it didn’t catch on!

Now there’s talk of fully privatizing our bus system, which is already privately run contracting to a public agency.  Don’t think it could get worse?  Don’t bet on it!

OK, I know, “fixed route” public transport will never get everybody where they want to go when they want to go there.  Rail may be faster than cars when roads are congested, but buses never will be.  But buses can be sociable.  They can be safer and cheaper than driving and better for the environment. At their best they can be low-stress.  Buses can even be so good that people leave their cars behind to use them!

How do I know this?  Every year I spend at least a week in Nova Scotia visiting family.  In recent years I’ve stayed in Halifax and moved around by bus.  The Halifax “Urban Core,” at 297,000 people, is about the same population as Worcester and its neighboring towns. 

There is a dense network of busses – including busses connecting with the very popular cross-harbor ferries.  They run late into the night.  On some trunk routes there are busses every five minutes.  There are ten Bus Hubs, including suburban hubs, several of them twice the size of Worcester’s.  There are hundreds of benches and shelters, and I’ve seen myself how they get shoveled out right away after every snowstorm!  People actually leave their cars behind to ride the busses!

The difference is that Worcester’s busses are treated like welfare for the poor.  How we got here, how we get back to having a quality public transportation system for all, how we pay for it – these are things we should be talking about. Halifax shows it’s possible.  Anything less is unacceptable.

WRTA bus garage comes to Green Island

By Sue Moynagh

On Wednesday, February 26, the WRTA held a public meeting at the Green Island Neighborhood Center. At a press conference on April 21, 2011, it was announced that the WRTA Vehicle Maintenance and Operations facility would relocate from Grove Street to 40 Quinsigamond Avenue. A series of meetings were held to gauge public opinion. This was the fourth meeting of this series, the last having taken place on October 9, 2013.

At this meeting, WRTA Administrator Steve O’Neil and STV, Inc.Associate Project Manager Neal Depasquale presented the designs for the facility, including building, grounds and immediate neighborhood layout. This presentation emphasized two aspects of the design: community “friendliness” and environmental mitigation. There were about twenty people present including State Representatives Dan Donahue and Mary Keefe, City Councilor Sarai Rivera and Jonathan Church from the Central Mass. Regional Planning Commission. Most of those present were members of the Green Island Residents Group, Inc. Executive Director Ron Charette of SWNIC also attended. There were a few questions and concerns raised, primarily about traffic issues, but most of those in attendance were pleased with the plans.

The new WRTA facility will be located at 40 Quinsigamond Avenue, which is currently limited development brownfield. It will be situated on approximately 11 acres of land on what used to be the Commonwealth and then NStar Gas Company site. Steve O’Neil was the first to speak. He said that the design was about 30% completed, and he wanted to include neighborhood opinions throughout the process. The WRTA is getting close to purchase of the parcel. One small easement problem needs to be ironed out, but he says they want to “hit the ground running this spring” when it comes to actual development of the property. Mr. O’Neil also emphasized the importance of making the building and grounds community friendly.

Then, Neal Depasquale showed conceptual site plans and explained how the space will be used in order to be efficient and also have low impact on the neighborhood. The façade will be similar to that of the Hub Terminal Building near Union Station. There will be some brick work with a middle panel utilizing soft grays and blues. Windows will be placed along the storage area. Although they have no functional purpose inside the building, they will make the building look less industrial from the outside. There will be a trellis-like approach to the building that will partially block the view, and the DPW pump station will also block pedestrian view.

The building will have two levels. The lower level will be for maintaining and storing the buses and will be approximately 137,000 square feet. The 13,000 square foot upper level will hold administration offices, state-of-the-art training areas, a library and operations offices. There will be visual contact with the site entrances for added security. The building will be ADA compliant on both levels.

There will be two entryways onto the site. Buses will come into the main entrance across from Endicott Street. They will immediately move to the back of the site adjacent to the railroad tracks so as not to be visible from the street. There will be maintenance and storage areas within the facility out of site of the public. At present, there are 52 buses and 28 demand response vans, with plans to purchase more. There will be limits on noise and idling. Fuel delivery and storage is also in the back. The other entrance, onto Southbridge Street, will be for emergency use, particularly if flooding occurs.

How will this facility be community friendly? There will be a community room that can be booked for events and meetings that can hold up to 50 people. This will be perfect when the Community Room in the Green Island Neighborhood Center is being utilized or is too small for an event. This room will be on the ground floor. There will also be a kitchenette off the community room for employee and function use. There will be two parking lots immediately inside the main gate. One lot will hold 100 spaces for operators, and the other auxiliary lot of 50 spaces may be used on occasion by neighborhood residents, most likely when the community room is booked. There will be three shifts, so the building will be open at night.

The main building entry way is across the street from Crompton Park and will obviously include a ramp for accessibility. The lobby and community room will be right inside. There will be security measures including surveillance cameras at the gates just outside the entryway. Buses entering will use transponders to automatically open the gates upon arrival. The storage and maintenance portion of the building will include five overhead doors, adjustable according to weather conditions, which will facilitate movement of the buses. The design focus is to make the building both welcoming and secure from all four points.

Traffic concerns were brought up by a few in attendance. Will there be traffic problems near the park and on Southbridge Street during peak traffic hours, especially during inclement weather? How about noise? Mr. O’Neil stated that no traffic mitigation measures were necessary according to the traffic analysis draft. The buses will be leaving the facility very early in the morning, between 4:30 and 6:00 a.m. well before normal peak traffic hours. Many of the buses will be returning at night, after 8:00 p.m., some even coming in between 11:00 p.m. and midnight. As for noise, many of the newer hybrid and electric buses are very quiet in comparison to the older diesel models.

When buses arrive back, they are flagged for storage or maintenance service, fueled, washed and then stored or sent for repairs. There will be 8 service bays for inspecting, repairing and cleaning the buses, above and below the vehicle and for wheel alignments.
At this point, environmental concerns were addressed. Both speakers affirmed that the design was environmentally sustainable. For instance, skylights will introduce natural light to operations and maintenance areas of the building. Standing trees will have to be removed but low shrubs will be planted around the entrance way. Budget constraints will limit landscaping, but if cuts have to be made, most of them will impact the interior of the storage area. Mr. O’Neil said, “We want the neighborhood to be proud of the building.”

One resident voiced concerns about the emergency entrance way. Lafayette Street is a narrow street and she asked how increased traffic would affect pedestrian traffic. She was told that they would revisit the area, and work with the city for necessary sidewalk and streetlight improvements. She also requested a “virtual reality” type of presentation, which would show traffic and pedestrians in motion. The designers would try to comply with the request for the next meeting.

Rep. Mary Keefe asked about water conservation. Could rain and snow melt water be collected for washing the buses and landscaping? The designers would have to look at the payback. It could possibly cost more to harvest water than to use city water supplies. Since flooding is an issue for the site, the facility has to be designed to raise it approximately 6 feet above the flood plain, and allow for underground storage of excess water. The gradient will control movement of the water and the gravel and plastic- lined storage area will prevent overflow or leakage of water into the flood plain. Barriers would not be necessary. Mr. O’ Neil did state that existing problems with flooding in the neighborhood will most likely remain, but will not be exacerbated by the facility. Plans will be viewed by the Conservation Commission.

The meeting lasted about an hour, and attendees had opportunity to speak one on one with the presenters and view plans close up. More meetings will be scheduled as work proceeds. Steve O’Neil also told residents that he would be glad to answer any questions that come up between meetings and they should feel free to contact him. These public meetings are well- advertised and are a perfect opportunity to be a part of this process and I hope residents and stakeholders will continue to express their concerns, ask questions or make suggestions.