The posts on this page are from a variety of Salem blogs and the views expressed are those of the individual blog author.

October 17th, 2011

My years of futility in Salem transit, part 2

Route 459-Derby St

Following up on my last post, I’m wondering why we just can’t get things done to improve our public transit and make our streets safer for pedestrians and people with disabilities.

I’m signed up with the MBTA to get service alerts for bus routes I regularly use, which would be the 450, 451, 455, 456, 459 and 465.  I just got an alert now:

Routes 455 & 459 are experiencing 15-20 minute delays due to traffic.

10/17/2011 4:07 PM

This has been a regular occurrence.  Normally, I’m not concerned about delays here and there because buses run in traffic and are susceptible to the same delays that affect motorists trying to go down 1A and 107 on their way to and from Salem.

But there’s been a disturbing increase in traffic congestion that has happened in all months at most times of the day in the North Shore.

The MBTA schedules have been severely affected;  looking at Route 456, the frequency of service is now 80 minutes.  That means 1 hour and 20 minutes between buses.  This route once ran hourly when it was established in 2002.  (The 456 is a busy route that serves Central Square by way of Highland Ave., and the many Lynn residents who shop and use the medical offices in Salem.)

The 450 has been affected as well.  In fact, during weekdays, none of the MBTA routes out of Salem Depot run hourly.  The 465 that serves the Peabody-Danvers shopping area runs about every 1 hour and 10 minutes (70 minutes).

Even on weekends, the 455W, Salem to Wonderland, no longer runs hourly, but also slips 5 minutes here and there throughout the day.

This single bus route is the most frequent, and busiest, of all of the MBTA’s Salem routes.  Before the 455 was split into the 455 and 459 routes (the latter going to Logan Airport and South Station on weekdays), it ran every 30 minutes, as does the 455W weekend service to Wonderland.

I have taken that route many times and I can tell you it is crowded.  If you come home from Boston and elect to get off the Blue Line at Revere Beach (one stop short of Wonderland), you will not get a seat on the bus.  (The bus shelter at Revere Beach is much nicer than the one at Wonderland so I board there any time I can.)

Remember also that the MBTA runs many, many other routes to and through Lynn, and to Swampscott and Marblehead.

Here is an exercise for those who doubt this:  Drive down either Route 1A (the Lynnway) or Route 107 (Western Ave.) and pull into a lot somewhere before Revere.  There are a number of Dunks around so pull in with a medium regular and your choice of donut.  Normal business hours are fine, day or evening.

Find an MBTA bus that is marked for service on its LED sign (other than “NOT IN SERVICE” or “NO STOPS”).  Count how many people are onboard;  you don’t need to be exact.

Count the buses and count the people.

You’ll probably find a lot more buses and a lot more riders than you think.  These people are heading to and from work, to and from doctor appointments, daycare, shopping and even church.

Critics of transit spending like to say that you can’t make demand by spending on big capital projects like, say, the Blue Line extension to Lynn.

But the people are already here!  They’ve been here for a long time.  They come whenever the latest condos get built on Highland Ave.

And those who don’t take the bus, drive.  Yes, I know I am in the minority of people who do not drive and yes I am lazy, didn’t overcome my disabilities, and so forth.  I know all that.

But I know, too, that in any urban area, when the density of people gets above a certain point, it’s time to consider investing in public transit, simply because the road networks will strangle the very communities that depend on them.

That time’s now.  It’s been “now” for years.

No public official will say this, because the scariest thing they could imagine is to have Barbara Anderson and the Tea Party at their door screaming “NO NEW TAXES!”  I’ve heard that before, I’ve heard it for years and years and years.

And, certainly, Salem is wealthy enough in the short term that the Tea Party platforms could “work”.

For a short while, anyway.

Will the shiny, happy, good, new (and rich) residents of Salem tolerate not being able to leave their driveway, not only in October, but year-round?  The traffic jams of Halloween in Salem are legendary, but the dirty truth is that they happen just as readily on a cold twilight afternoon in January.

I fear something even worse:  The Massachusetts Senate has approved a casino gaming bill.   In the bill, which still has to go to a conference committee to be finalized, there would be three destination casinos in the state.  One of them would be near Suffolk Downs.

The owners of Suffolk Downs have long looked to slot machines to provide the revenue they need to keep the horse track running;  horse racing as a sport has been on a long slow decline for decades and the track was once known as “Sufferin’ Downs” for good reason.

The owners recently bought Wonderland, the defunct dog track near the Blue Line that was closed after Mass. voters approved a referenda to ban greyhound racing.  Wonderland is where most people think a slot parlor may go on the North Shore.

It’s the northern end of the Blue Line.  And it is the worst migraine headache for me and all of us on the North Shore.  And it will happen.   There’s too much money being tossed around in executive suites and the State House to think otherwise.

Both my mayor and my rep, Driscoll and Keenan, are supporting casinos.  They’re doing so, I suspect, because of the hope of increased state revenue for cities and towns, the selling point most used by our state lottery, and they are hoping for infrastructure (roads & transit) improvements.

I’m not going to guess on the revenue, but I will guess that the casino operators won’t invest as much in the infrastructure as we would like.  They don’t need to.

They don’t need a Blue Line extension;  most of their customers will drive, and the few who don’t can be served by leasing a few dozen shuttle buses.  We’ll see them everywhere once the casino opens.  (They will also become the default recreational option for senior centers, but that is another matter.)

They won’t need to invest in anything else;  the casinos of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun are, like most, self-contained so the visitor doesn’t need to go anywhere else.  Nowhere else but there to spend money!

Mayor Driscoll is deluding herself if she thinks this won’t ripple into Salem’s tourist revenue.

What casinos will surely do is clog up the roads and make it impossible for anyone in buses or cars to get around.

Unless, of course, you are going to the casino yourself.  That will be easy.

Otherwise, not so much.  The decay of the T will continue and no one will care.  What have I been doing for 4 years, again?  Will it matter?

October 17th, 2011

My years of futility in Salem transit, part 1

Highland Ave at Pep Boys

In my last post, I updated the status of Salem Depot and its endless revisions and delays.  A little further south of downtown, there’s another situation that I am reminded of again and again.

I’ve long wrote about the Market Basket bus stop and the problems navigating to it in the winter.  Around this time of year, most of us are shopping for new winter boots and hoping against hope that the upcoming winter will be mild, or at least with little snow.

This picture outside Pep Boys showed that this was not to be, early in 2011.  In 2010, the Commission hoped that the MBTA would route buses through Market Basket to eliminate the problem.

That was also not to be;  the MBTA declined the idea.  The Market Basket plaza was never designed for buses, the routes would be delayed going through there, but most importantly, the abutter to Market Basket—the adjacent shopping complex with Shaws and TJ Maxx, objected.

There will be no new bus stop in the winter of 2011-2012 and, I fear, there may never be.

Since I’ve started this blog, I have heard regularly from a gentleman, a former city councilor, who’s been upset over the bus stop and its snowbanks.

Like clockwork, I’ll hear from him when Mayor Driscoll announces funding for some new project (“She can spend $XXXXX for something but not on the bus stop!”)

Repeatedly.

He’s made me even more cynical than I am already.  I have seen and known enough about government to know that the fact of Mayor Driscoll seeking to start some project or another is totally orthogonal and unrelated to that bus stop.  I didn’t even vote for her but I have expressed my thoughts on transit to her and other elected officials regularly.

Most people who’ve been outraged over this issue have cars and don’t need to wait in the snow for the bus!

I use that bus stop regularly. If I get run over standing next to a snowbank one gray chilly day, isn’t that poetic justice?  Given what the Tea Parties say about government and those who work for it, I wouldn’t expect an ounce of sympathy from anyone if that happened!  I don’t know the politics of my correspondent, but I do know a lot of people his age who parrot  the “hard work and personal responsibility” trope of the Tea Parties so often that it is just screaming noise.  (Obviously, I didn’t work hard enough to overcome my vision problems so I could drive!)

And my correspondent is an ex-city councilor!  I feel that if you are a current city official or even a former city official, you have an obligation to answer when someone asks, “What did you do to make Salem better when you served?”

I’d like to ask my correspondent what he did when he had the reins.

I know that in 4 years and 1-1/3rd terms into my service on the Commission on Disabilities, I have to ask myself that question every time I get up in the morning and every time I sit in our conference room at SATV every third Tuesday.

I’m beginning to wonder if I can really answer that.  Thoughts in my next post. 

October 17th, 2011

My years of futility in Salem transit, part 1

Highland Ave at Pep Boys

In my last post, I updated the status of Salem Depot and its endless revisions and delays.  A little further south of downtown, there’s another situation that I am reminded of again and again.

I’ve long wrote about the Market Basket bus stop and the problems navigating to it in the winter.  Around this time of year, most of us are shopping for new winter boots and hoping against hope that the upcoming winter will be mild, or at least with little snow.

This picture outside Pep Boys showed that this was not to be, early in 2011.  In 2010, the Commission hoped that the MBTA would route buses through Market Basket to eliminate the problem.

That was also not to be;  the MBTA declined the idea.  The Market Basket plaza was never designed for buses, the routes would be delayed going through there, but most importantly, the abutter to Market Basket—the adjacent shopping complex with Shaws and TJ Maxx, objected.

There will be no new bus stop in the winter of 2011-2012 and, I fear, there may never be.

Since I’ve started this blog, I have heard regularly from a gentleman, a former city councilor, who’s been upset over the bus stop and its snowbanks.

Like clockwork, I’ll hear from him when Mayor Driscoll announces funding for some new project (“She can spend $XXXXX for something but not on the bus stop!”)

Repeatedly.

He’s made me even more cynical than I am already.  I have seen and known enough about government to know that the fact of Mayor Driscoll seeking to start some project or another is totally orthogonal and unrelated to that bus stop.  I didn’t even vote for her but I have expressed my thoughts on transit to her and other elected officials regularly.

Most people who’ve been outraged over this issue have cars and don’t need to wait in the snow for the bus!

I use that bus stop regularly. If I get run over standing next to a snowbank one gray chilly day, isn’t that poetic justice?  Given what the Tea Parties say about government and those who work for it, I wouldn’t expect an ounce of sympathy from anyone if that happened!  I don’t know the politics of my correspondent, but I do know a lot of people his age who parrot  the “hard work and personal responsibility” trope of the Tea Parties so often that it is just screaming noise.  (Obviously, I didn’t work hard enough to overcome my vision problems so I could drive!)

And my correspondent is an ex-city councilor!  I feel that if you are a current city official or even a former city official, you have an obligation to answer when someone asks, “What did you do to make Salem better when you served?”

I’d like to ask my correspondent what he did when he had the reins.

I know that in 4 years and 1-1/3rd terms into my service on the Commission on Disabilities, I have to ask myself that question every time I get up in the morning and every time I sit in our conference room at SATV every third Tuesday.

I’m beginning to wonder if I can really answer that.  Thoughts in my next post. 

October 17th, 2011

My years of futility in Salem transit, part 1

Highland Ave at Pep Boys

In my last post, I updated the status of Salem Depot and its endless revisions and delays.  A little further south of downtown, there’s another situation that I am reminded of again and again.

I’ve long wrote about the Market Basket bus stop and the problems navigating to it in the winter.  Around this time of year, most of us are shopping for new winter boots and hoping against hope that the upcoming winter will be mild, or at least with little snow.

This picture outside Pep Boys showed that this was not to be, early in 2011.  In 2010, the Commission hoped that the MBTA would route buses through Market Basket to eliminate the problem.

That was also not to be;  the MBTA declined the idea.  The Market Basket plaza was never designed for buses, the routes would be delayed going through there, but most importantly, the abutter to Market Basket—the adjacent shopping complex with Shaws and TJ Maxx, objected.

There will be no new bus stop in the winter of 2011-2012 and, I fear, there may never be.

Since I’ve started this blog, I have heard regularly from a gentleman, a former city councilor, who’s been upset over the bus stop and its snowbanks.

Like clockwork, I’ll hear from him when Mayor Driscoll announces funding for some new project (“She can spend $XXXXX for something but not on the bus stop!”)

Repeatedly.

He’s made me even more cynical than I am already.  I have seen and known enough about government to know that the fact of Mayor Driscoll seeking to start some project or another is totally orthogonal and unrelated to that bus stop.  I didn’t even vote for her but I have expressed my thoughts on transit to her and other elected officials regularly.

Most people who’ve been outraged over this issue have cars and don’t need to wait in the snow for the bus!

I use that bus stop regularly. If I get run over standing next to a snowbank one gray chilly day, isn’t that poetic justice?  Given what the Tea Parties say about government and those who work for it, I wouldn’t expect an ounce of sympathy from anyone if that happened!  I don’t know the politics of my correspondent, but I do know a lot of people his age who parrot  the “hard work and personal responsibility” trope of the Tea Parties so often that it is just screaming noise.  (Obviously, I didn’t work hard enough to overcome my vision problems so I could drive!)

And my correspondent is an ex-city councilor!  I feel that if you are a current city official or even a former city official, you have an obligation to answer when someone asks, “What did you do to make Salem better when you served?”

I’d like to ask my correspondent what he did when he had the reins.

I know that in 4 years and 1-1/3rd terms into my service on the Commission on Disabilities, I have to ask myself that question every time I get up in the morning and every time I sit in our conference room at SATV every third Tuesday.

I’m beginning to wonder if I can really answer that.  Thoughts in my next post. 

July 3rd, 2010

No New Bus Stop at Hawthorne Square

 

Highland Ave North at Market Basket

For some time, I and the Commission have been trying to get the MBTA to establish a bus stop inside the parking lot at Market Basket.  

Last fall, we thought we were making progress.

A colleague of mine got a response from Keenan’s office, quoted here:

In a message dated 2/1/2010 10:22:55 A.M. Eastern Standard Time, Lynne Montague writes:

Hi Rich,

I wanted to get back to you with the latest information provided by the MBTA on the Highland Ave Bus Stop.  John Matthew at RMD , Hawthorne Square Mgmt has withdrawn its proposal to build a new bus shelter as the company stated it could no longer justify the expense.  The company further noted that the path for the bus, that the MBTA had agreed to, was objected to by the neighboring shopping plaza.

Mr. Matthew said he would contact the MBTA if he learned anything new or if the management company wanted to make a new proposal.  The city of Salem has instructed RMD, Hawthorne Square Mgmt that the bus stop must be cleared of snow.

I will let you know if there is any additional information on this proposal.

Best,

Lynne

Firstly, I’m uncertain as to what kind of expense is involved.  We never heard any kind of dollar figure;  was this to be an actual physical shelter?  I’d understood this would be just a bus stop in the vicinity of Market Basket.

Since I first drafted this post back in February, I’ve gotten some more information that puts a little light on this story.  The Commission got a copy of a letter to the Mayor’s office from the MBTA, specifically from a senior planner/analyst:

The layout of this shopping center does not support a regular bus service. This facility is designed with a large parking lot, few walking paths, and multiple storefronts that would create conflicts between buses, autos, and pedestrians. With the present layout, there is no appropriate place for passengers to board, exit, or wait for the bus. We would be interested in discussing this situation with the management, owners, and/or tenants of Hawthorne Square to see if there are possibilities for making changes or additions inside the center which might create an appropriate bus waiting area area and safe path for the bus to drive through Hawthorne Square.

The Service Planning group is also concerned with the additional trip time a rerouting would impose on existing customers. We estimate that each customer trip would be lengthened by 4 minutes or mour if routed via the shopping center. Extending selected trips during weekday midday hours or on weekends could minimize the additional passenger-travel time, since there are fewer peak-period commuters who would be negatively affected by such an extension and delays from traffic are less severe.

Snow removal is a serious issue that affects the quality of a bus customer’s trip; ordinances vary by municipality. In general, snow removal on sidewalks or at bus stops is the responsibility of the abutting property owner.

The Route 107 corridor has never been quiet, except perhaps before I was born, but it is true that it has gotten more congested.  In fact, the T has had to run fewer buses with increased headways (80 minutes on weekdays) on the 450 and 456 routes due to heavy traffic on Highland Ave.

Ms. McCoy is also correct in asserting that the Hawthorne Square parking lot is not really laid out for pedestrians–there are no reserved pedestrian paths between stores.

This problem is much more than just one elderly person trying to get to the grocery store from the bus.

It’s about how we have emphasized the personal car above everything and arranged our city planning around the car and its needs for parking at peak periods.

The only answer we seem to have is “more development”.  While I (personally, not the Commission) cautiously favor the new Wal-Mart proposed on Highland Ave. (and disfavor Lowes), I’m not sure how this will help.

As it is, the Commission has de facto “adopted” Rt. 107, 1A, 114 and all the other entrance corridors in the city where pedestrians and people with disabilities travel. 

MassHighway has control over many of these corridors, so city councilors cannot do a lot.  Jean Pelletier and Jerry Ryan are the nominal councilors over Rt. 107’s path;  I have not spoken to Jean but Jerry knows my thinking on this and we have spoken numerous times.

I recently had to contact MassHighway to fix one of the new audible signals (ironically near Market Basket).  After two months it’s resolved, but someone needs to go out there to adjust its volume.

A call here, an email there, a tweak.  Until the next issue. 

Now, the talk of my state rep and my mayor is on casinos and pledges to improve 1A and 107, which will certainly serve the proposed resort at Suffolk Downs.

A tweak here, a tweak there.

People won’t like this solution, but the community leaders in the region will have to push for the Blue Line to Lynn.  Just stand on the Lynnway near Wal-Mart or on Western Ave. past the bus depot and count how many buses with passengers go by.   It’s more than you think.

With due respect to my colleague Rich, who never fails to give me a word against the city on this issue, it’s a tough one.

And the Commission seems to be alone in fighting for this.

July 3rd, 2010

No New Bus Stop at Hawthorne Square

 

Highland Ave North at Market Basket

For some time, I and the Commission have been trying to get the MBTA to establish a bus stop inside the parking lot at Market Basket.  

Last fall, we thought we were making progress.

A colleague of mine got a response from Keenan’s office, quoted here:

In a message dated 2/1/2010 10:22:55 A.M. Eastern Standard Time, Lynne Montague writes:

Hi Rich,

I wanted to get back to you with the latest information provided by the MBTA on the Highland Ave Bus Stop.  John Matthew at RMD , Hawthorne Square Mgmt has withdrawn its proposal to build a new bus shelter as the company stated it could no longer justify the expense.  The company further noted that the path for the bus, that the MBTA had agreed to, was objected to by the neighboring shopping plaza.

Mr. Matthew said he would contact the MBTA if he learned anything new or if the management company wanted to make a new proposal.  The city of Salem has instructed RMD, Hawthorne Square Mgmt that the bus stop must be cleared of snow.

I will let you know if there is any additional information on this proposal.

Best,

Lynne

Firstly, I’m uncertain as to what kind of expense is involved.  We never heard any kind of dollar figure;  was this to be an actual physical shelter?  I’d understood this would be just a bus stop in the vicinity of Market Basket.

Since I first drafted this post back in February, I’ve gotten some more information that puts a little light on this story.  The Commission got a copy of a letter to the Mayor’s office from the MBTA, specifically from a senior planner/analyst:

The layout of this shopping center does not support a regular bus service. This facility is designed with a large parking lot, few walking paths, and multiple storefronts that would create conflicts between buses, autos, and pedestrians. With the present layout, there is no appropriate place for passengers to board, exit, or wait for the bus. We would be interested in discussing this situation with the management, owners, and/or tenants of Hawthorne Square to see if there are possibilities for making changes or additions inside the center which might create an appropriate bus waiting area area and safe path for the bus to drive through Hawthorne Square.

The Service Planning group is also concerned with the additional trip time a rerouting would impose on existing customers. We estimate that each customer trip would be lengthened by 4 minutes or mour if routed via the shopping center. Extending selected trips during weekday midday hours or on weekends could minimize the additional passenger-travel time, since there are fewer peak-period commuters who would be negatively affected by such an extension and delays from traffic are less severe.

Snow removal is a serious issue that affects the quality of a bus customer’s trip; ordinances vary by municipality. In general, snow removal on sidewalks or at bus stops is the responsibility of the abutting property owner.

The Route 107 corridor has never been quiet, except perhaps before I was born, but it is true that it has gotten more congested.  In fact, the T has had to run fewer buses with increased headways (80 minutes on weekdays) on the 450 and 456 routes due to heavy traffic on Highland Ave.

Ms. McCoy is also correct in asserting that the Hawthorne Square parking lot is not really laid out for pedestrians–there are no reserved pedestrian paths between stores.

This problem is much more than just one elderly person trying to get to the grocery store from the bus.

It’s about how we have emphasized the personal car above everything and arranged our city planning around the car and its needs for parking at peak periods.

The only answer we seem to have is “more development”.  While I (personally, not the Commission) cautiously favor the new Wal-Mart proposed on Highland Ave. (and disfavor Lowes), I’m not sure how this will help.

As it is, the Commission has de facto “adopted” Rt. 107, 1A, 114 and all the other entrance corridors in the city where pedestrians and people with disabilities travel. 

MassHighway has control over many of these corridors, so city councilors cannot do a lot.  Jean Pelletier and Jerry Ryan are the nominal councilors over Rt. 107’s path;  I have not spoken to Jean but Jerry knows my thinking on this and we have spoken numerous times.

I recently had to contact MassHighway to fix one of the new audible signals (ironically near Market Basket).  After two months it’s resolved, but someone needs to go out there to adjust its volume.

A call here, an email there, a tweak.  Until the next issue. 

Now, the talk of my state rep and my mayor is on casinos and pledges to improve 1A and 107, which will certainly serve the proposed resort at Suffolk Downs.

A tweak here, a tweak there.

People won’t like this solution, but the community leaders in the region will have to push for the Blue Line to Lynn.  Just stand on the Lynnway near Wal-Mart or on Western Ave. past the bus depot and count how many buses with passengers go by.   It’s more than you think.

With due respect to my colleague Rich, who never fails to give me a word against the city on this issue, it’s a tough one.

And the Commission seems to be alone in fighting for this.

May 9th, 2010

Salem Commission on Disabilities April 2010 Unofficial Minutes

[Sorry for the delay.  No pictures this post—DM] The Salem Commission on Disabilities met on April 20th, 2010 at 4:00 PM. Present: Jack Harris, Debra Lobsitz, Andy J. LaPointe, David Tracht, David Moisan, Charlie Reardon, David Martel and Jean…

October 15th, 2009

Comments on the Salem Depot Project

These are comments I’ve sent to Thomas Rovero of the MBTA, and the mayor’s office on the proposed Salem Depot garage.  There will be another public meeting sometime in December. From:  David Moisan, Salem Commission on Disabilities T…

August 12th, 2009

MBTA Hearing in Salem Cancelled

Next Monday’s “public workshop” in Salem has been cancelled by the governor, following the dismissal of MBTA GM, Dan Grabauskas.   Quote from John Keenan’s email yesterday: Today Secretary of Transportation James Aloisi suspend…

July 20th, 2009

Transit for the Disabled Endangered by Cuts

The Salem News has finally caught on to the service cuts the MBTA proposed a few weeks ago.   This time, they’re focusing on cuts to The RIDE, the T’s paratransit service for people with disabilities. The T would eliminate van …

June 20th, 2009

MBTA schedule changes for routes 450, 456 and 455

The MBTA has announced schedule changes for Salem bus routes effective Monday.  These changes were first put forth by the MBTA last winter and they affect route 450 and 456 significantly during the weekdays. Route 456:  This route will no…