Tag Archives: Union Station

Meet me on the WRTA bus!

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.

Worcester’s WRTA bus system: designed to fail?

CAM00320
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.

This just in! This Saturday!

Be there!   – R.T.

FREE!

Saturday, July 25

12 noon -4 pm

Union Station

Come celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the ADA!

A special note on parking and accommodations:

We can’t wait to celebrate with you. There is self-parking at the Union Station parking garage (225 Franklin Street) which has a posted height of 8′ 2″. Parking is FREE for the ADA 25 Celebration!!

Please go to the greeting area located near the front entrance of Union Station for any information or to make your accommodation request.

American Sign Language Interpreters, CART Services and Audio Description will be available Saturday, July 25, 2015 from 12:00pm to 4:00pm. We also have Spanish interpretation as needed.

In the spirit of the ADA, we have asked all exhibitors and volunteers to please refrain from wearing any scented fragrances and to make sure that they have printed materials in accessible formats.  We recommended they have 5%- Braille/electronic text format; 15% large print and also asked them to review a national disability awareness guide.

On Worcester’s ADA 25 website we have a Reasonable Accommodation Notice where we ask people to  please let us know if they plan to attend the celebration and require a reasonable accommodation.

The ADA 25 Worcester Committee thanks you for your support and welcomes your participation. We look forward to being of service to you!!!!

SCHEDULE FOR THE MAIN STAGE

11:45 – 12:10       Felix Guzman – DJ
12:10 – 12:30       Velekete – Francesca Abbey, drumming
12:30 – 12:40       A message from our sponsors
12:40 – 1:00         Marty Ayotte – blues harp, trio
1:00 – 1:10           Welcome- City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. and reading
of the ADA proclamation by City Councilor Tony Economou
1:10 – 1:30           Elaina and Marcin – wheelchair ballroom dance partners
1:30 – 1:40           ADA Impact story- Joe Bellil
1:40 – 2:00           Emily Buresh, Angelica Wilson – vocal, guitar, indie punk pop
2:00 – 2:10           Message from Congressman James McGovern
2:10 – 2:30           Stephen Weiner – Deaf magician
2:30 – 2:40           ADA Impact story-Joan Philip
2:40 – 3:00           Silver Moon Gypsies – Anna Connor & Co., belly dancers
3:00 – 3:10           ADA Impact story-Larry Raymond
3:10 – 3:30           Santon – Keyboard, violin, classical, world, folk
3:30 – 3:40           ADA Impact story-Charlie Croteau
3:40 – 4:00           Tony DeBlois – Keyboard, requests, show tunes
4:00                     End of ADA 25 Program

Stay for the after party from 4 PM – 7 PM hosted by the Center for Living & Working, Inc. celebrating their 40th Year Anniversary.

Don’t miss all of the amazing
interactive exhibits

ADA HISTORY TIMELINE
The powerful exhibit is a 22-
panel collage that traces
3,000 years of seldom-told
history.  The College of the
Holy Cross is excited to host
the exhibit as part of the
anniversary celebration of
the ADA.

The exhibit will be on view at
the City’s celebration at Union
Station July 25th from 12noon-4pm.

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.

Revitalizing downtown Worcester

By Philip Stone

Many thanks to Barbara Haller for speaking out and supporting the CDC’s in Worcester [ICT, V. 13, #5]. As to Dots 1 and 2 [in her op-ed piece], there is no question that the downtown area [of Worcester] is the “hole in the doughnut” and in need of attention. I believe however that the “The Downtown Worcester Theater District Master Plan” is seriously flawed.

Earlier this year the Worcester Business Development Corp. hung a large banner on the wall of the YWCA proclaiming that: “The Answer is Downtown”. The Question is unstated, but I believe we are being asked: “What is the Purpose of Worcester’s Downtown?”

For more than 25 years I have parked in the Federal Plaza Garage and walked down Main Street to my law offices, located at different times on Pleasant Street, Mechanic Street and for the past ten years, Front Street, but all within a block of City Hall. Each of those buildings is now an empty shell of what they once were.

During this time I have witnessed the gradual exodus of professionals from downtown: the doctors, the dentists, and the accountants. Lawyers remain because the Federal and state courthouses are on Main Street.

As demand for office space has declined, so too have the rents landlords can ask. Rental income is often insufficient to properly maintain the office buildings, assuming their owners have a genuine desire to do so. A spiral of neglect encourages existing tenants to leave, and discourages prospective tenants.

The new bus hub near Union Station has deprived the small businesses clustered around City Hall of many of their customers, and seriously inconvenienced users of what little remains of public transportation in the second largest city in New England. The Bus Hub is another example of top-down, well-intentioned planning that failed to include the stakeholders in any discussions of the WRTA’s plans until it was too late, and the decisions had already been made.

The retail businesses that do remain cater to the people who presently live downtown, who in turn are attracted by relatively low rents.

The underlying hope of the Theater District Master Plan is to attract other people to live downtown and support local restaurants and retail businesses, transforming what was once a retail and central business district into a mixed use environment anchored by higher education, and populated by students and employees with money in their pockets.

Attracting educated professionals employed by UMMC and the city’s colleges and universities is an ambitious goal. As long as the school systems of the surrounding towns are rightfully perceived as being superior to Worcester’s, professionals with children will probably choose to live elsewhere.

Some small business owners have proceeded on faith. The former Red Baron is now Jak’s Pub offering craft beers, and the Theater Cafe has tied its hopes to the Hanover. But the Hanover Theater is dark more often than not. Small restaurants and cafes will not survive in such an environment, and they lack the means to serve large numbers of people wanting to eat at the same time. One theater is not a district. In fact, there are seven existing theater and performance venues downtown. Plans for a large restaurant next to the Hanover have been put on hold – the numbers simply do not work.

Over the years many restaurants have come and gone downtown. Friendly’s, McDonalds and Burger King all closed their Main Street operations. The eateries that do remain cater to downtown office workers, and close in mid-afternoon – and they are not near the Hanover Theater.

Successful downtown areas are characterized by pedestrian friendly design. WBDC’s proposal to build a new parking garage on Portland and Myrtle Streets needs more scrutiny. A four to six story garage would dominate the existing area, and alter the scale of the neighborhood.

Perceptions of personal safety in large garages are critical to their success. The garage behind the former Galleria was notorious for the fear it created among women patrons. Federal Plaza Garage works because there are clear lines of sight from the elevators over the entire parking floor. Exiting the Federal Plaza Garage is a challenge that could be solved by converting Chatham Street to two-way traffic between High Street and Main Streets.

Merchants correctly claim that there is a need for additional short-term parking downtown. Small-scale attractively landscaped lots are more desirable than the large multi-story structures that have been recently built, and they encourage people to run in and out for quick errands.

Rather than being gerrymandered into a “Downtown Worcester Theater District Master Plan”, commercial “problem properties” should be targeted for Fire and Code Enforcement, and purchased if necessary. While aesthetics are difficult to regulate, billboards do not belong in the downtown area.

Working in Downtown Worcester is like living in a chronic state of emergency. The incessant stream of siren-wailing ambulances needs to be re-routed off Main Street, perhaps up Myrtle Street and then onto Francis McGrath – Worcester Center – Major Taylor Boulevard, all of which have minimal pedestrian activity, to the hospitals.

Perceptions of public safety are shaped by seeing other people on the street, not more uniformed police. The Common should be policed by officers on bicycles or Segways – not on motorcycles which are both a safety hazard and ineffective; police cruisers should not be driven and parked on the sidewalks around City Hall. The more people on the street at night, the safer an area is perceived to be. Similarly, the presence of women and children increases the perception of safety.

At the end of the day, small improvements of modest cost will do more to improve the downtown experience. For example, around the Hanover Theater there is no sidewalk on Main Street in the Federal Square park area, which forces pedestrians to walk in the street. The surface of the park area used by theater goers who park in Federal Plaza Garage is uneven and needs to be replaced. The fountain, which was improperly winterized, is now the most expensive planter on Main Street and ought to be repaired.

Staffed, clean and safe public rest rooms, rather than unheated Porta-Pottys, would attract more users to the skating rink and other events on the Common. A Tot Lot on the Common, and family-friendly activities and amenities would do much to improve the attractiveness of downtown Worcester.

Philip M. Stone is an attorney with offices in Downtown Worcester. He has served as an active member of the Board of Worcester Common Ground, Inc. since 1994.

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.

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.

Worcester’s transportation hub hub-bub!

By Rosalie Tirella

editor’s note: if you want to make your voice heard on this issue, please attend the public hearing tomorrow at the Worcester Public Library, 3:30 p.m. In the Saxe Room.

The move to move the main downtown bus stop away from City Hall to next door to Union Station blows. City leaders and the daily are touting the plan as part of a grand design to make the Union Station area the city’s transportation hub. A nexxus for trains, buses that go out of state … now our city buses. It all makes for synergy, good urban design, blah, blah, blah.

But what it really accomplishes, and I believe this is what city leaders are really aiming for, is the furthur removal of poor people from our downtown. Get the rabble away from City Hall!! Everyone looks so downtrodden! Everyone looks so young! Lots of folks waiting for the buses in front of City Hall, WHERE FOR EONS WORCESTERITES HAVE TRANSFERRED FROM ONE CITY BUS TO ANOTHER TO GET WHERE THEY NEEDED TO GO, are people of color! Young people of color. The working poor. This is bad p.r. for a City on the Move!

People of color, young people, poorer people! Get them away from our precious downtown common. Shoo them away from City Hall and the center of our city. Make our public school students and the nurses aides and the folks who work at CVS or Honey Farms, make folks whose lives are hard enough, feel like pariahs! Way to go City of Worcester. When the change occurs in April, is it safe to say it will be City Manager Mike OBrien’s municipal spring clean up?

How horrific! How small! How classist and racist. By removing these folks we will have ZERO, or close to it, folks making their way through our downtown. You know, the downtown Worcester where thousands of people used to traverse as they went about their business: shopping, paying bills at city hall, eating at restaurants, RUSHING TO CATCH THE BUS BEFORE IT PULLED AWAY! Now we really will have dead urban space!

And what about the person who actually buses downtown to shop? Well, now that person will have to lug his CVS bags or MidTown Mall packages all the way to the beginning of Shrewsbury Street. Not a very fun hike if it is raining, cold or snowing. Not a very fun hike if you are old or walk with a cane.

City leaders should be whacked on their rusted-out skulls for this latest insult to the little guy and gal!

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.

Union Station is NOT a destination for most local, day-to-day riders.

Yet City Councilors back this moving of the transfer point away from downtown.

“But over the years, city councilors have encouraged the WRTA to move its transfer center elsewhere, particularly to Union Station, because of concern about the number of teenagers who congregate in front of City Hall throughout the day as they wait for buses.”

Teenagers, like everyone else, have to commute. They can’t drive so they comprise a larger share of riders. As there are fewer busses they have to wait longer so it seems as if there are more of them. A June T&G article ranked Worcester 80th in the 100 biggest cities for having longer-than average bus waiting times and poorer access to service.

…. WRTA could not supply a number or ratio of local riders connecting to rail or inter-city bus when asked at a Worcester Library meeting 9/22. I asked WRTA’s spokesman at that meeting if anyone had asked riders if they thought changing the transfer point to the edge of downtown was a good idea. He could not answer in the affirmative.

WRTA plans to break ground on this new hub in November – with 60% of the project planning already completed. There will be discussion at WRTA’s Advisory Board Meeting tomorrow morning according to their Facebook page

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Worcester-Regional-Transit-Authority/74387422073