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!

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2 thoughts on “Guest Post: Proposed WRTA Hub at Union Station

  1. Ken Alderfer says:

    Maybe it’s because I’m not a bus rider at the moment, maybe I’m just ignorant on this issue or maybe I just don’t get your point, but isn’t Union Station going to be part of the downtown hub? Once the Outlets are torn down, shouldn’t there be a clear view from City Hall to Union Station?

    Incorporating Union Station as the hub could potentially strengthen a vibrant downtown area. Commuters to and from Boston/points east now have immediate access to travel throughout the city. Union Station might be able to fill their empty retail space. If the growing number of teenagers congregating is a concern, maybe a store or restaurant that caters to teenagers would benefit here.

    To me it’s about growth downtown and a future vision of where Worcester could go. It looks like there is a decent plan and I’m excited to see where the City Councilors and planners go with this.

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