Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Salem Willows Bus Service, is there a will or a won’t?

Someone at the Salem Gazette finally realizes what I’ve been saying all along:  There needs to be public transit to the new senior center, even if it’s at the Willows.

Suddenly, everyone’s asking us why there isn’t a bus or shuttle to the Willows.

One local senior recently recalled for us the golden era of the Willows, when people came from around the North Shore and even Boston and New Hampshire to spend the day in that lovely neighborhood.

This senior wondered why the MBTA doesn’t provide some kind of shuttle route around the north of Boston area, to restore the neighborhood to its former glory. Even within the city, he pointed out, there are still many locals, including seniors, who want to visit the beach and the boardwalk but don’t have easy access.

As I’ve pointed out, and the Gazette points out, it’s very unlikely the T can provide the service.  The city did once have a regular shuttle service, the “Senior Shuttle”.  You can still see its red signs  around town, notably at the old Michaud bus stop at Washington & New Derby Sts.

It’s easy to say that the MBTA, the state or the city should open up the wallet for more transit spending, but we need much more than that.  We need a real sea change in how we see transit.

For decades, those who could get around, drove.  Transit was for the very poor without cars, or for the disabled or elderly, what I’ve called “welfare transit”.

The late British welfare scholar Richard Titmuss had a quote, “Programs for the poor are poor programs!”  Public transit agencies have often  assumed that the only people using bus services are only those too poor or too sick to go anywhere but the grocery store or the doctor’s office.  That’s a bad assumption for disabled people who may otherwise be in good health and who want to go everywhere able-bodied people can go, and it lets politicians cut those programs since only a “few” benefit.

Public transit in Salem needs to be broad-based to be successful.  No one, for example, looks down on the train;  it’s an old—but vital—link for the North Shore and Boston.

However, some Salemmites think the 455 is just a bus route for their domestics to get to work;  a tax increase to, say, run the 455 every 15 minutes during weekdays would be shot down.  (I can hear some Derby Lofts residents, “Can’t they go somewhere else?!”)

I’m encouraged that more people are interested in transit (and trolleys) but it’s not enough.  The T’s funding problems have to be resolved, for even private bus routes (like the old Michaud Peabody route) depend on state funding.

One person in the comments at the Gazette article suggests that Salem Trolley become a transit provider rather than a tourist company.  I like the idea but Salem Trolley probably won’t.

Editorial: Willow or won't we? - Salem, MA - Salem Gazette

1 comment:

Catreona said...

Hi David,

Offtopic, but just to let you know in case you haven't heard about this...

YOUR COMMENTS NEEDED! DOJ Proposes Vast Changes in ADA Regs