Tag Archives: WRTA

The WRTA: some sucky days on the bus!!

By Robin Caron

It’s a wonderful thing to be able to ride the bus and get out and about [Worcester] and beyond, but as a daily [WRTA bus] rider let me give you a dose of reality.

Before I begin I have to say that I understand that it’s not the driver’s faults, as they are victims of the asinine schedules as well, so guys and gals please don’t splash me with slush when I’ve been waiting 45 minutes in a blizzard for a bus…any bus…that’s going to take me in a southerly direction.

So you just gotta love waiting for the #27 bus on a Friday after work and being told there’s  no room, then having to wait ONE HOUR for another bus (#19 or #33) only to have the #27 show up again…still no room and no sign of #19 anywhere.  #33 shows up (packed) and as we meander down Main St. behind the #27, (whose driver is telling the potential passengers that the #33 is right behind him), people are getting completely squished and whacked in the head by pocketbooks and backpacks by its castoffs.  And God forbid a “gentleman” or a healthy, young girl actually gives up their seat to a handicapped or elderly person. As if THAT’s ever gonna happen.

And let’s talk about the drivers.  I’m only subjected to a very few and the majority I encounter are wonderful and I love them to pieces.  HOWEVER, let me tell you a little story about the time I had to pay half the fare of a young girl who didn’t have enough money to pay for a full day pass TO GET TO SCHOOL and was almost in tears because the driver wouldn’t let her ride.  It seems that it was perfectly acceptable for the driver to pick up a tweaking, crack whore at the very next stop who jumped on, all smiles, slapped fifty cents into the fare box and declared “Here’s fifty cents, I’m only going down the street”. Yes…she was allowed to ride, no questions asked, and she WAS just going down the street.  She was dropped off in front of the PIP.  True story.

How about this little ditty?  Waiting at the bus stop watching the bus fly past me and seeing it screech to a halt when the regular riders, I’m sure, were yelling “Hey! You forgot to pick up Robin!” or he saw me jumping up and down and waving my arms with the WTF look on my face.  After running my 55 year old butt a block to get on the bus I asked the driver what, exactly, he thought I was doing at the bus stop at 8:30 in the morning.  His reply…”Lots of people stand at bus stops”. Really?  Perhaps they’re waiting for…oh, I don’t know…A BUS??? He then proceeded to make fun of me to his little buddy and when I asked his name so that I could complain to the WRTA, he pointed to his bus number and yelled at me “THAT’S MY NAME!” He then proceeded to beep his horn at the other traffic, swear under his breath at pedestrians and if I’m not mistaken actually flip someone off.  I bet my Charlie Card that if he wasn’t talking to his “co-pilot” and was actually concentrating on his job, the passengers on that bus wouldn’t have ended up with whiplash.  Oh, and I must point out that this particular “gem” was filling in for the regular driver who was being reprimanded and in “obedience school” for sticking up for herself after being verbally abused by an irate passenger.  That’s it, WRTA, replace the little girl whom everybody loves and who has a backbone with an arrogant ass with an oozing case of road rage.

Who’s running this horse and pony show anyway? Certainly not someone who actually has to use the service and get from point A to point B. Why do all three of my busses show up within 5 minutes of each other (if at all) and then I have to wait another hour for the next one? And trust me, my mother was rolling over in her grave when I left The Hanover after a show I attended by myself (got there on time, believe it or not) and walked home at 10:30 because there’s no service after 8 p.m.

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. Continue reading

The WRTA takes the “public” outa public transportation … and a few Worcester development developments

By Rosalie Tirella

A few days ago we checked our INCITY TIMES email to find a plethora of documents – information, phone numbers, petitions, etc from the folks (the soon to be displaced tenants) who are fighting Becker College’s leasing of their big apartment building on Fruit Street. Seems the college was dissuaded from buying the two homes in the Highland Street area so they could fill them with kids and decided things would be more “fruitful” on Fruit Street, a place with more office buildings, apartment buildings and fewer homeowners. People who are gonna fight the kids’ arrival tooth and tong.

My heart goes out to the group of Fruit Street tenants who sent me all the information. Yup. They are, when their leases expire, being thrown out of their very cool apartments that they so dearly love, their homes, so that Becker College kids can live in them, experience city living, courtesy of Becker College, which is leasing the building from the owner/s.

Renters never have the clout homeowners do. They don’t have the bucks. Money trumps good tenants ALWAYS, good folks who want to continue enjoying their apartments/lives.

I often get packages like the one emailed to me from the Fruit Street folks. A last ditch effort, so to speak. Over the dozen years I’ve been putting out ICT, people have come to know my passion for the little guy and gal. They know I worry about gentrification and working folks and families. They know I won’t back away from a fight if I believe in a cause.

But somehow, the Becker kids moving into the building doesn’t freak me out. Would if I lived there. Or my family lived there. But being removed from the situation some, I can be more objective and say: The tenants need to get in touch with our CDCs and begin looking for new digs. WHICH SUCKS. Been there, done that. However, Worcester needs the college kids, the educated future of TOMORROW. We talk about Becker’s cool video gaming program and how it’s attracting kids from all over the region who want to attend the school to get the hip gaming degree. Well, where is the school, is Worcester, going to put them? House them? In Holden?

Truth be told, the Highland Street homes seemed OK, too. If you buy a home next door to a college, this is what you are gonna get: A COLLEGE. A college filled with college kids. And so the TOWN-GOWN dance begins. Conflict is the accurate word.

My heart breaks for the Fruit Street tenants, but their landlord is within his or her legal rights. And Worcester’s colleges need to flourish and keep up with the times. Also, young people are energizing for a city.

The WRTA mess. Only the WRTA could take the public outa public transportation! Depressing!

However, we were happy to see, a few days ago as we drove past City Hall, one of the free shuttle mini buses that WRTA head honcho Steve O’Neil promised WRTA riders. After another public hearing where bus riders said: WHERE THE FUCK ARE THE BUSES? THEY ARE LATE. HOURS LATE. OR THEY DON’T SHOW UP AT ALL! STOP THE CHAOS!

I guess O’Neil felt the people’s pain cuz he did the right thing: got some shuttle buses floating around City Hall to pick up for FREE WRTA riders who were too freaking exhausted to walk all the way down to the new transportation hub to catch their buses home. They can no longer catch them at the logical place, in front of City Hall where all the stores, businesses and coffee shops are. Now they must do their business, make their purchases and take a hike with bags, food, books, etc to the new transportation hub. EXHAUSTING. Which is why O’Neil got the free shuttle buses going. Now people can hop onto these buses – I saw one driving by me as I waited at the stop light – and be DRIVEN to the transportation hub. Here’s hoping there is some frequency to these shuttles. You shouldn’t have to wait 20 minutes for one. You could miss your bus!

God, there are a ton of kinks to work out! Why not have two transportation hubs? The old City Hall one, which actually worked And the new one which looks good but is totally pointless? One that works, one for show.

I nominate Jo Hart for Woo transportation tzar! Or maybe she could take over Steve O’Neil’s job …

The WRTA vs “Jo” Hart: Go, Jo, go!

Jo Hart, a lone voice in a too too cruel city when it comes to the WRTA’s new bus hub/route schedule. Hear her rail against the machine Mon., July 29, 5 p.m. at the Worcester City Council Public Service & Transportation Sub-Committee meeting. City Hall. Main Street. City Manager Mike O’Brien will throw his two cents in with a shiny, sleek report! So many WRTA commuters are unhappy with the new location, new schedules … It’ll really suck come winter. – R. T.

Great work, Neighbor to Neighbor!

I have worked with and known the N2N crowd for more than a decade – wonderful ladies (mostly ladies) who work to empower Latino and low-income voters. As we move to celebrate InCity Times’ 12th birthday (our special 12th anniversay issue comes out Friday after next), it is so so cool to be able to run this info from folks who, like us, have been fighting the good fight for Woo’s inner-city folks –  for YEARS! Kudos, N2N!  – R. Tirella
**************
Inadequate regional transit systems take a significant toll on the quality of life of low-income Latinos in our communities
Over the past several months, Neighbor to Neighbor-MA teamed up with Northeastern University’s Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Planning to conduct door to door surveys, one-on-one interviews, and focus groups to show the effects of transportation in everyday lives. The final report, out this week, shows that inadequate regional transit systems take a significant toll on the quality of life of low-income Latinos in our communities. New data shows just how great that toll is, and provides a plan for how to reduce its effect on the health, employment opportunities, education, stress level, time, and wallets of our neighbors.
Click on the pictures below to read more about how infrequent, expensive, and unreliable transportation impacts daily life in these stories from local and national media. (EVEN IF YOU CAN’T SEE THE PICS, CLICK ON THE BOXES! YOU STILL GET THE INFO! – r. t.)
N2N Worcester leader Terri Cherry
shares her story with
Lynn State Sen. McGee, Chair of the
Joint Committee on Transportation,
talks about the need for
transportation reform.
N2N Springfield leader Ana Sanoguel
The Dukakis Center’s
explains the facts and figures
of the report.
Find more from our members at WBUR, Boston Magazine … . You can read the report here.
This report is an unprecedented collaboration between N2N-MA and the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, with major support from the Barr Foundation and supporters like you.
By combining hard data and personal stories, this report makes an even stronger case for economic justice.
Your support is crucial in this ongoing fight!
Onward!

Hub bub over our new transportation hub

By Rosalie Tirella

Bring back the bus stop in front of City Hall! Screw the shiny, brandy new transportation hub next to Union Station! That’s what our city’s WRTA bus riders seem to be telling city leaders. A bunch of folks were at City Council meeting recently to complain about the city’s new transportation hub. They said what we said a few months ago on this website and in ICT : It is hard walking to the new site with bags and bundles. It is hard walking to the new hub with bags and bundles in the rain (or sleet or snow, come this winter), if you work downtown and you want to just trek on down to City Hall to take your bus home. With the new system, you now have to end your work day walking another 20 to 30 minutes to get to the new transportation hub. Exhausting after a long day at CVS, the MID-TOWN Mall or any other downtown biz where poorer folks, folks without cars, work. And connections, missed bus connections, are more likely, since the buses keep their City Hall schedule, but riders must now hot foot it way way way out of their way to catch their buses. Make that miss their buses.

Yes, the new hub looks good standing beige and proud at Washington Square. Yes, it looks good on paper, or to people who were never poor and carless. But for folks whose lives are hard enough this new system means more hardship.

The people who go to Union Station to jump on a train to commute to Boston or Metro West are not the same Worcesterites who hop on a bus to get to their jobs as nurses aides in city nursing homes. There are probably very few folks who bus to Union Station to take the train to Boston. Two different groups of folks with very different commuting needs. The nurses aides are taking it in the chin.

Why did City Manager Mike O’Brien shut down the main busstop in front of City Hall? Why not have the new transportation hub AND the old City Hall stop? Let’s give folks choices, not herd them some place else, like urban cows and sheep. It’s as if O’BRIEN wanted to cleanse his up and coming downtown of all the poor, minority folks he believed would drag it down, make the new Worcester look sketchy, unsafe. Not new and shiny.

Shame on the city manager for being so superficial and thoughtless. Where would families be without nurses aides caring for elderly parents or friends. And people barely making above minimum wage deserve to be supported by our city leaders, not undermined.

Bring back the bus stop in front of City Hall, CM O’Brien. Don’t work against the working class and the poor.

This just in … Kill the WRTA hub

By John Provost

What if some arbitrary decision were made to close a road that cut 5-10 minutes off your commute each way, every day? … without any input from those who use it.

The reason given might be excessive noise or congestion.

Suppose there is also no way to shorten the delay by improving any alternate route.

Your routine – commuting, getting things done, living your life – would be permanently impaired!

As a driver, you would be up-in-arms!

WRTA wants to move the transfer point for local buses away from City Hall and downtown … to a pavilion near the Peter Pan / Greyhound annex to Union Station.

You may have bused when you were younger? You might need them when you’re older. Perhaps you use them now.

The ease of non-drivers’ getting around and conducting their business in this city – could soon be downgraded! A livability factor for a whole class of people; students, disabled, elderly and working poor – is at stake! Let’s not set more hurtles of inconvenience for those whose mobility is already compromised and limited.

Integration of local buses with inter-city train & bus may appear logical at first glance but would come at a high cost of inconvenience for local, day-to-day bus commuters; people who have long been conditioned and resigned to expecting little more than indifference to THEIR concerns:

1) The proposed transfer point is not central to downtown so those wanting to do errands en-route would need to walk three to five blocks to/from downtown to avoid yet another transfer. The extra time walking to and from would frustrate effective use of layover time. IMHO it would discourage more than encourage use of public transportation.

2) The most likely routing [hasn't even been discussed] would have buses from the east and south turn first into the transfer facility before going downtown – or terminating, forcing riders to either transfer or walk downtown from / to the station for service from / to an eastside or southward local route. The spokesman admitted that would probably be the case (that buses from the east would turn into the station first before going downtown. Continue reading

The WRTA’s new Green Island digs (Asthma, anyone?)

By Maureen Schwab

On April 21, The Worcester Regional Transit Authority held a press conference on Quinsigamond Ave, at Crompton Park, to formally announce the award of a $ 39 million federal grant that will be used to build a new mainatainace and operation center. The WRTA plans to locate the new center on seven of the twelve acres of land owned by NSTAR, located on Quinsigamond Ave and Lafayette Street. The remaining five acres will be used by the State Department of Transportation.

This move will place both projects in close proximity, possibly as close as across the street, from Crompton Park, and a century old residential neighborhood known as Green Island. The residents of Green Island were not invited to the press conference, nor were they asked to serve on a committee that would guide the project to insure that neighborhood concerns were heard and hopefully met.

As promised, after the 4.21.meeting, the residents of Green Island were given the opportunity to hear from members of the City Council and administrators from the Worcester Regional Transit Authority about plans to move the WRTA maintenance and operation center to the empty NSTR property.

Notices were sent to Green Island residents, with a personal invitation from Worcester District 4 City Councilor Barbara Haller to attend a meeting of Public Service and Transportation Committee. The meeting was held for the convenience of the Green Island residents, at the Green Island Neighborhood Center, 50 Canton Street, on Wednesday May 18.

Only about 12 residents, several WRTA employees and members of the management team were in attendance. Those residents of Green Island, who did attend, had the opportunity to hear information about the proposed WRTA move from WRTA Administrator Stephen F. O’Neil, and to ask questions about the project.

Many of the questions from residents raised serious concerns about noise and air pollution. At this time, attendees were told by O’Neil, traffic and environmental studies have not been conducted, but when they are, they will meet with all of the necessary requirements. CC Joseph Petty stated he has never received any complaints about air pollution at the Grove Street facility.

Questions about the State Dept. Of Transportation move were taken by State Rep. John Fresolo. Again, concerns were raised again about noise and air pollution. Rep. Fresolo will hold a separate meeting, at a date and location to be announced, to discuss issues related to this move.

The most important outcome of this meeting was the formation of a citizen’s advisory committee which will allow for residents to monitor the progress of this project, and the opportunity to serve on a design review committee. Anyone who is interested in being on the committee can call the City Clerk’s office and ask to be added to the list. The design review committee will be chosen from this list.

The move from Grove Street to Quinsigamond Ave will have the WRTA leave pollution behind on one site, and perhaps only partially remove the toxins that sit in the ground on the NSTAR lot. The grant money cannot be used to clean or renovate l what has been allowed to deteriorate on Grove Street for 75 years; the money can only be used to build a new facility. According to a newspaper article, the design of the new building is estimated to cost $4.1 million, with construction estimated at $48.8 million.

That’s a little more than $39 million.

Fresh, unpolluted air, on the other hand, is priceless.

Author Greg Mortenson cancels May 3 speaking engagement in Worcester

By Rosalie Tirella

In this issue of InCity Times, we ran a promotion, re: Greg Mortenson’s May 3 speaking enagement at Mechanics Hall. After we went to press – and could not make any changes to the paper – we got this note from the UCC (see below). We did not see the Sixty Minutes piece on Mortenson.

In our humble opinion, if the author has accomplished only half of what he claims to have achieved, he is still a great man. I saw a TV news report a few years ago – I think it was a 60 Minutes piece – on Mortenson and all the great schools he was allegedly building in Afghanistan, etc. I was impressed! I still am. Maybe he hasn’t built as many schools as he claimed, but the guy HAS built lots of schools in the Mid East, poor girls there are being educated in his schools and he has shone a bright light on this important issue – educating girls in developing countries is the key to their human rights – for all the world to see.

As far as I can see, the world still needs people who will sit down and have three cups of teas – that is, build friendships gradually and respectfully – with people in Afghanistan and Pakistan, etc – not go in, as we and NATO have done, half-cocked blowing everybody’s brains out. The Mid East needs folks who will support girls and education for girls. They need more activists like Mortenson – not fewer.

As far as the way the guy has handled money – not so good. But he did tell NPR he was saving millions of dollars to provide a huge nest egg for his charity so that when he dies the important work of educating poor girls in the Mid East – the only way their society will begin to see them as full human beings and not chatel  – will continue.

***********************************************************************************

Press release received by ICT:

The United Church of Christ – Massachusetts Conference (MACUCC), sponsor of an upcoming appearance by author Greg Mortenson in Worcester on May 3, announced today that Mortenson has withdrawn from his planned engagement due to health concerns.

Mortenson, who was the subject of a highly critical segment aired on April 17th’s “Sixty Minutes” program, announced recently that he is suffering from a hole in his heart which is reportedly due to be surgically repaired in Bozeman, MT, this week. Given the surgery and recuperation time, Mortenson’s agent said it was impossible for him to fulfill his engagement at Worcester’s Mechanics Hall on May 3.

Susan Dickerman, Associate Conference Minister for Leadership Development for the MACUCC, said, “The Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ is deeply concerned about the allegations made by CBS during its “Sixty Minutes” broadcast. Our decision to sponsor Greg Mortenson’s appearance in Worcester focused on providing an opportunity for laity and clergy to be inspired and challenged by Mortenson’s work in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to share with him their questions and concerns. We regret Mr. Mortenson’s illness and inability to fulfill his contract, and will offer full refunds of ticket purchases to all ticket holders.” Those holding tickets should contact the Mechanics Hall Box Office for a refund at 508-752-0888, no later than May 5th.

The Massachusetts Conference of the UCC includes 386 churches with over 73,000 members, and is one of 39 regional bodies of the UCC, which has 5,300 churches and 1.1 million members. The United Church of Christ traces its roots to the Pilgrims and Puritans who founded this country, and founded the nation’s first public schools and universities. The UCC remains a strong advocate for equality in public schools today.

Green Islanders out of the loop (and pissed about it!), re: the building of new WRTA garage across from Crompton Park

By Maureen Schwab

I am writing regarding the April 21 press conference, announcing plans for the Worcester Regional Trasnsit Authority (WRTA) to move operations from Grove Street to the empty NSTAR lot on Quinsigamond Ave., across from Crompton Park.

I am a resident of Green Island, and live across the street from Crompton Park. So naturally, I am very interested in any development that may impact my neighborhood and, more importantly, the use of our beloved Crompton Park.

This move, according to District 4 City Councilor Barbara Haller was a “done deal” before anyone in the neighborhood had a chance to review the plan and hear how WRTA operations would impact life in Green Island and use of the park.

The first I heard about this plan was several months ago when it was mentioned at one of the Crompton Park meetings held by the Worcester Parks Department (that’s another story). There have been several articles about the sale in the T & G over the past few months.

The only reason I was at the press conference yesterday was because I was walking my dog and saw a tent going up on Quinsigamond Ave. and asked about the event. I was told it was a groundbreaking ceremony for the new WRTA headquarters.

Let me make it clear: No one from the neighborhood was invited to this event, even though it was mentioned that the neighborhood welcomes this move. I spoke with Barbara Haller and Mayor Joseph O’Brien after the event to voice my opinion and to make it very clear to the mayor that the neighborhood was not involved in the decision, and no one from the neighborhood was invited to attend the press conference.

Green Island neighborhood activist Lorraine Laurie may have known about the plans for the move (not the press conference), but she is telling me that the weather was too harsh for a meeting and that this is private property that can be sold to anyone.

I strongly disagree. Even building on private property has to have any plan approved by the City of Worcester Zoning Board and Planning Department, at the very least. I am planning a meeting with Mayor O’Brien to review the plan and will eventually bring it to the people of Green Island. Lorraine may be setting up a meeting with Steve O’Neil, director of the WRTA.

As a resident of Green Island, I see this as the death knell for the residential aspect of Green Island.

Do you remember what Millbury Street looked like 10 years ago, before the Route 146 connector went in? I would like to see these operations – WRTA and Mass. Department of Transportation – moved to the old Wyman Gordon property on Lamartine Street. According to Lorraine Laurie, WRTA was not asked to buy the property. More importantly, it is probably more money than the WRTA wanted to spend.

In my opinion, buy the land, get grants to clean up the toxins in the soil, and turn it into an extension of Crompton Park!

I would appreciate knowing the how’s and why’s of this move.

One of the reasons the WRTA may be leaving Grove Street may be because of the noise and pollution the huge bus garage/operations center brings to the neighborhood.