Planning Board Liveblog

5:38 – Right now, the contractor (from Wendel Duchscherer) is discussing the design.  It will be where the open parking lot is now.

Note: plenty of suits here, not that many regular folk.

They’re saying they want to begin work in Spring 2012.

Unfortunately, I can’t see the diagrams, so it is what it is.  You can see more (I guess) here and here.

“Bicycle lane and pedestrian path that deadends at the site.  Upon crossing Franklin, combined facility with room for 15-20 bicycle slips and air pump.”

Large open space to north, “important feature for this project”, welcome doormat for pedestrians and facility users.

Landscaping: along Foster Street, large shade trees.  They will pick trees that are not tasty to the ALB.

Series of evergreens that provides screening near Peter Pan line.

At Southwest corner of site, generator and transformer for backup power. 

Crosswalks will feature strobe lighting system for motorists to better notice pedestrians.

Mr. Adams: comment 1: change type of pipe to reinforced concrete; 2. manhole; 3. City of Worcester detailed sheet needed.

Mr. Fontane: having reviewed this plan, have some questions.  Street tree maintenance/removal should be reviewed with Forestry.

Response: location of existing street trees do fall within areas under construction.  Will need to be removed.  Perhaps city can plant them in other locations.

Fontane: none of trees are protected, just wanted to make sure they consulted with forestry.

Fontane: trash receptacles, bicycle pavillion, air pump, etc.

5:48 – notation about snow storage, should be labeled on revised plan.

Audience members to speak.

Mark (didn’t get last name) – wants info about the lighting plan inside and outside building and handicapped parking.

Consultant: outside lighting would be Worcester teardrop (Nicole says “testicle”) lighting.  Box lighting recessed into wall inside.  Lights on pathways.  They say it will be well-lit.

No parking spaces – handicapped or otherwise.  Asking about parking for advisory board meetings.

O’Neil of WRTA says that parking at Union Station garage will be used for advisory board meetings, accessible to building.

10 toilets throughout building.  auto sensors for sinks and toilets.  doors within facility will meet ADA requirements but not require operators.

stairwells will have handrails on both sides. 

There is elevator at one end that accesses three floors.

5:55 – Phil Stone, attorney in downtown.  First he’s heard of this formal process to move WRTA hub away from city hall.

Lives in Princeton, where there’s no public transit.

Is there any recognition of the economic role the customers of the RTA play downtown.  “They are the direct means of support” of some local businesses.  When buses were not running during a strike a few years ago, business downtown was dead.

Given challenges downtown has been facing, really should discuss the economic impact.

Bus congestion is “patently untrue.”

Curb cuts on Franklin and Front for buses.  Biggest impact are cars making illegal turns.

he uses Peter Pan to/from NYC.  Rather than make a huge impact, he suggests a few alternatives — 1) five minute loop shuttle between Union Station and City Hall;  2) young people and concerns about — “in the 25 years I’ve been downtown, I’ve only witnessed one loud disruption of the peace” and it was adults.

Would like to see hard numbers on transfer between commuter rail and buses.

More space needed at Union Station for those dropping off and picking up.

6:00pm – Susan (didn’t get last name) – lives in Crown Hill.

Who rides the buses?  We’re not Cambridge or NYC — “the poor and the elderly.”  Those folks can’t walk that distance.  Likes shuttle idea.

As far as youth, that’s probably after school, adnd that’s any place you live.

If Worcester ever really gets to bicycles, will need a lot more than 20 spaces.

John Provost, Castle Street – would like to ask what the purpose of transportation is.  “You want to get from point A to point B just as quickly and conveniently as possible.”  “This project is so impressive…but I have not heard the public input of the riders and what the riders think of this and what their goals for usage … should be.”

“It reminds me of the classic tire swing cartoon from the 70s…with all due respect, it doesn’t come together to be workable.  … The project is admirable in the sense of seamlessly integrating rail, intercity bus with the local.”

“Those that don’t drive should have just as many opportunities to use their time effectively as those who drive…” There were three times as many buses twenty years ago and if there is congestion of students downtown, it’s only because they have to wait longer for their buses.

“We are planning for the future convenience of the non-motoring population.”

“You’re turning a simple bus trip into an event.”

Stephen O’Neill speaks to plan: project wasn’t done in a vacuum, worked with MassDOT, etc., and city of Worcester economic development staff.  “Front Street will not be Front Street as it is now.”

linking up with bike path that will eventually go to RI.

WRTA will be able to use the MBTA Charlie Card system (and commuter rail is moving to Charlie Card as well).  [but how many people are using the bus to get to commuter rail & vice versa?!?]

One stop shopping with ticket vending machines.  Hopes this product will be better than what they provide their customer now.

Another member of the public – Kim McCoy – other cities aren’t doing this.  They are having interconnections, but not all buses going to one place as end point or stop off.  Compare to Pittsburgh.  A lot of people ride, good service, everything downtown is free.  Buses come in from a lot of directions, city has made a priority of getting people downtown but NOT cheap parking.

More cities have a sense of total planning, not just whatever the current grant opportunities are.  “Not just what gets us the best grants in the short term.”

Chair notes that they cannot influence the philosophy of the WRTA.

And…Jo Hart!!!!

She’s been trying to get a public hearing and “expose this absurd plan.”

The City Council agreed to have a public hearing and then they didn’t have it.

The meeting last week only had 12 people.

“Land-use disaster” — “misuse of land is outrageous” — Union Station has restrooms, Peter Pan has restrooms, the whole object of intermodal is one facility.  “It’s designed so poorly it’s nonsensical” — public has to walk through “ice and snow and slop.”

“A deed done in the dark”

“I am speaking longer than you want me to because all of this has been done in the dark.”

Thinks Steve is a little enamored that CMRPC is on the second floor and he doesn’t want to be left out.

[Jo is on FIRE!]

“It’s the worst plan in the universe.”

Jo is now shusshed because she was treading too far away from the point of the Planning Board.

She likes the Wyman Gordon site better.

I want to be Jo Hart when I get old.

board member — feels these are good concerns, but board does not have authority to make these decisions.  Who has authority to address the concerns?

Answer: Policy decisions are made by WRTA and its board of advisors.

Another board member — what is required here for parking?

Response — facility per zoning does not require parking

Third board member — bus exit questions.  Is there an assumption of signage for turns from/to Front Street (right turn only).  [Response: this can be added]

member – has there been any thought about path to downtown?

O’Neill — will work much better with opening of Front Street.

second member — will every bus transfer through here?

O’Neill — yes, pretty much every bus

chair — where is bike path right-of-way?

consultant — shared use pathway once it crosses Franklin

three building floors — WRTA third, PVSI on second, PVSI partly on first, public partly on first.   There would be space on the first floor for the public to wait.

third board member asks about architectural elements.

O’Neill — wanted to consider that because this is an innovation district, wanted architectural design that fits into the district, to extent that they can capture some of the elements in Union Station, they will do that.  One of the features will be a coffee and warm waiting area for folks waiting.

Two towers reflective of Union Station, brickwork reflective of it.

Jo wants to clarify something about the building.

Customer service facility could be at City Hall or Mid-Town Mall, shouldn’t be at Union Station.  Feels this would create congestion of “manic proportions.”

aaand…it passes.

Now off to the next event…

Guest Post: Proposed WRTA Hub at Union Station

by John Provost of the Artichoke Food Coop

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 hurdles 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. From a March T&G article:

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.

The March article extolled the virtues of seamless, direct connection with commuter rail and inter-city bus “while easing traffic congestion associated with the bus transfer station on Main Street.” [What congestion? There are fewer buses than 20 years ago.]

Fostering Commuter rail access via WRTA bus could potentially remove hundreds of second vehicles from the road as well as free up parking for others. [Though many need to pick up children, spouses and do errands en route so how many would actually give up their car?] Visitors to Worcester could get any WRTA bus from the station. These would be two most compelling reasons to originate local busing from Union Station.

But should seamless intermodal integration be done at the expense of convenience for day-to-day local bus commuters?

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 on 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 but where & when was there a public hearing in Worcester about the matter before Thursday, 9/22?

The proposed hub is on the agenda for the City Planning Board Meeting at 5:30 in the Levi Lincoln Room. 3rd floor, City Hall.

Rise Up and be heard!

CWW: Sheep to Shawl – Llama to Pajama on Saturday

The extremely awesome (and free!) Sheep to Shawl – Llama to Pajama event will be held on Saturday, October 8 from noon-4pm (rain or shine) at Green Hill Farm.

Highly recommended: the live sheep (or llama; I’ve got conflicting information) shearing at 2pm.

Seriously, my kids were disappointed last year when they found there was just one llama — and not a flock — waiting to be shorn.

More information here.

(Image: llamas, a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic licensed photo from ECohen’s photostream.)