Be there! Coolio happenings!
By Ron O’Clair
I had to take a taxi-cab recently because my antique Volkswagen Golf developed a mechanical problem, and I had an appointment to see my doc up at 95 Vernon St. When I got dropped off, there was a Catholic Priest waiting at the door to the Medical Clinic. Upon talking with the Father I learned that he was none other than Father Ralph D’Orio, the Catholic Faith Healer who is world famous in those circles for the many healing services that he provides for the faithful that believe in the power of Jesus Christ to heal their afflictions through Father D’Orio’s hands.
As I was finishing up with my appointment and seeing as how it was a fairly nice day outside, I decided to see about catching a WRTA bus to take me downtown where I had to conduct some business at City Hall anyway. I had to get an abatement on my excise tax bill for the Subaru that I no longer own.
I saw the bus stop on Vernon Street at Suffield Street on my way in to the doctor’s office and the idea seemed like a good way to get back home. It was $6.50 for the cab ride up to the doctor’s office from my house with $1.50 tip for $8, and I know the bus only costs $1.50 now, so there was the added incentive of saving some money as well.
I boarded bus #11 with a Mexican American citizen named Victor whom I struck up a conversation with while we both waited for the bus to arrive at the scheduled time. We had a wonderful conversation in Spanish, as Victor who is 36 and works in a Restaurant in Shrewsbury did not speak very much English. With my flair for languages, this was no challenge for me. He has been here for 17 years, and I chided him a little for not knowing more English.
The bus itself had perhaps a dozen other riders on it; I sat near the front on the driver’s side and struck up conversations with the people that were near me.
There was a Greek woman to my right, whom I exchanged the rudimentary Greek that I learned right here in Worcester from our Greek immigrant community of whom I know several families that live and work in Worcester.
There was a bi-lingual 19 year old male of Hispanic origin directly across from me, and a slightly older African origin male to the right of him, both of whom I regaled with my stories of having traveled so many places around the world in the shoes I was wearing that I showed all on the bus, that I had gotten when I was stationed at Lackland Air Force base in November of 1979, that were actually made in 1959 two years before I was even born.
Many people can’t believe that my vintage shoes are 56 years old and still in serviceable condition! That just goes to show that if you take care of something that was made well, it tends to last a long time. The bus took us to the Hub station by Union Station where I boarded the Loop (shuttle) bus for free to take me to City Hall so I could conduct my business.
After concluding the business at City Hall, I ran into one of the “Novak Twins” – Eddie, who was sitting on the sidewalk on the Franklin Street side of City Hall. After that I had to go to the Court House on Main Street, so I got back on the Loop bus again for free and rode to the Martin Luther King Boulevard side of the Court House.
The Loop bus was one of the WRTA’s Electric Buses that produce no emissions, and I was delighted to have had an opportunity to ride with the driver Vincent who answered all my questions about these new efficient and clean-burning technology buses.
The WRTA buses they have now are pretty impressive, the last time I rode the WRTA, a paper transfer cost a quarter, and they no longer have those, so it has been a number of years.
After concluding my business with the Central District Court, I decided to take a stroll up Main Street, something I have also not done in many years. I walked along and took some photographs of the interesting things that one misses when driving an automobile.
For instance, there are two plaques on either side of the Commerce Building at 340 Main St. that are of historical significance I had never noticed before:
The one to the right of the main entrance says that Brinley Hall was the site of the first National Women’s Rights Convention on October 23-24, 1850. The one on the left says that Massachusetts Teachers Association was founded on November 26, 1844 by 85 educators who gathered there at Brinley Hall which was located at 340 Main St. at that time.
I most likely never would have seen the plaques or met the diverse group of Worcester folks, had I not gotten on the WRTA bus that day.
There are so many working-class folks unhappy with bus service in Worcester/Worcester County. They say WRTA buses are often (very) late, sometimes as late as a half hour! During these pretty spring days the buses’ lopsided schedules are a major inconvenience; in January they’re an affront to the working poor. Or anyone trying to get around Worcester. – R.T.
Please attend these meetings and voice your concerns!
From the WRTA:
The Worcester Regional Transit Authority (WRTA) has been undergoing a Comprehensive Service Analysis (CSA) of its entire fixed-route system by consultants, URS Corporation.
The final document is expected to be completed by the beginning of summer 2015.
In a continuing effort to engage WRTA customers and the public in this process, the WRTA wants you to help prioritize potential service changes …
The WRTA will be holding public meetings to discuss these potential changes and to obtain customer feedback.
The meetings will be held on:
Tuesday, APRIL 21
1 pm – 3 pm
CMRPC Union Hall Conference Room, 2nd Floor, Union Station (2 Washington Square, Worcester)
Wednesday, APRIL 22
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
CMRPC Union Hall Conference Room, 2nd Floor, Union Station (2 Washington Square, Worcester)
Thursday, APRIL 30
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Jacob Edwards Library
236 Main St., Southbridge
Pioppi Conference Room, Lower Level
By Lorraine Michele Laurie
In keeping with his promise to inform the neighborhood, Stephen F. O’Neil, Administrator of the Worcester Regional Transit Authority, held a community meeting on Thursday, September 25 to discuss the progress of site work at 42 Quinsigamond Ave., future home of the WRTA Maintenance and Operations Facility.
The informational meeting was the fifth held in the neighborhood and was hosted by the Green Island Neighborhood Center in Crompton Park assisted by the Green Island Residents Group, Inc.
Accompanying Mr. O’Neil were members of the “Team” – Thomas Coyne, Assistant Administrator of the WRTA, Neal DePasquale of STV Inc., the Architect, and Steve Eustis of SKANSKA USA Building Inc., the Construction Manager who reported on progress over the past three or four months.
Mr. Eustis said that remediation work will take place for four or five months. They will go down to bedrock and break up the concrete that is still at the location of the former tanks. They have even discovered “rooms” in the foundations of the tanks.
Because of the nature of the soil, the building will be erected on 350 piles. Foundation work should begin in February. In December, they will make test pits for the piles and there will be banging to do so.
Mr. DePasquale reported that there are five or six kinds of soil at the site and the bulk of it is clean. The contaminated soil will be taken out by the Providence and Worcester Railroad to special out of state locations. The soil removal will be according to DEP requirements and there will be air monitoring and catch basins will be covered.
Work will occur between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. – 4 p.m. Monday – Friday. Mr. Eustis said they are trying to avoid weekends. In two or three weeks they will be able to move the sand.
There will be a full–time presence on the site. Christopher McDermott of TRC, Senior Project Manager- Remediation Practice will be in charge of this section of the project.
Mr. DePasquale said that they will follow the Better Management Program by using hay bales and washing the vehicles before they leave the site. The WRTA has received the O.K. from the Conservation Commission, the ZBA, the Planning Board and the building permit to start the foundation work. They have followed the orders of conditions.
Mr. DePasquale went on to explain that the piles will be 80 feet. They have done three explorative probes. There have been several changes to the plans because of economic reasons but the 50 seat community room with toilet facilities and the parking layout will remain as planned.
When asked by one of the attendees about the flooding issue, Mr. DePasquale explained that the 100 year flood zone runs through the site. The new building will be raised four or five feet above the floodplain.
There will be an alternative route for the buses in case of flooding by way of Lafayette Street.
Also, the City and State are working to try to address the flooding issue in Green Island. The building itself will not contribute to the flooding. Water will be collected off the roof and be diverted into an underground retention system. The water will be released when the flood waters dissipate.
In addition to reclamation of a brownfield site and the construction of a new building that will bring jobs to the neighborhood, some sidewalk improvements will also be made. The sidewalk on the east side of Quinsigamond Ave. at Endicott Street will be made ADA compliant with curbs and handicapped ramp. On the westside of Quinsigamond Ave. where the new facility will be located, the City sidewalk will be fixed and maintained.
Bordering the sidewalk will be low shrubs that are drought resistant. The building itself will be fully secured and have cameras.
There will be a topping off ceremony at the beginning of the year and completion date of the WRTA Maintenance and Operations Facility will be in the spring of 2016.
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.
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.
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 …
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.
N2N Worcester leader Terri Cherry
shares her story with
the Boston Globe.
Lynn State Sen. McGee, Chair of the
Joint Committee on Transportation,
talks about the need for
N2N Springfield leader Ana Sanoguel
talks to Western Mass News22-NBC.
The Dukakis Center’s
explains the facts and figures
of the report.
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.