Monday, October 20, 2008

Salem Depot Developments

The Salem News has an article and two editorials about Salem Depot.

Salem pushing for T garage:

SALEM — Mayor Kim Driscoll has shifted into overdrive in a campaign to build a parking garage at the commuter rail station, the busiest depot in the MBTA system.
“It’s now or never,” Driscoll said after a meeting of the Salem Partnership on Friday. The business lobby’s executive committee voted this month to make a new garage a top priority following successful efforts to help secure state funds for a new courthouse and a new waterfront pier.
The mayor has formed a committee of federal, state and local officials to explore development and funding options for the garage at the 5.7-acre site along Bridge Street.

But the T has no money, as usual:

[Joseph] Cosgrove, the MBTA official, made it clear
that his agency does not have the funds to build this or any other garage. The MBTA, he said, is “broke.” And building garages, he said, is not its top concern. It’s No. 1 priority, he said, is maintaining the rail system, tracks and cars.

So the committee is floating other ideas:

However, it appears the key piece will have to come from a private developer for a project that could include retail space and housing.“The challenge is trying to get the development community interested,” Driscoll said.

We need more condos yes! Earlier this year, there were tentative plans for food service (Dunks or McD's, for example) proposed for the new Depot.

It does need to be enclosed, as the News points out in "Salem facility should include passenger waiting area":

But city officials and business leaders are right to demand that when a new parking facility is finally constructed on the site of the existing depot off Bridge Street, it include an enclosed waiting area for passengers. As lawyer Joseph Correnti, chairman of The Salem Partnership, told an MBTA representative last week, the current station consists of “a platform on the river.”This makes for an extremely uncomfortable wait for passengers in the middle of winter when the wind is whipping off the North River."

Not to mention the other problems I have with the station, such as the Steps of Doom.

The comments thread in the News, as is often the case, is more interesting than the article itself. Most of the commenters bemoan the thought of a garage, citing safety concerns, and the magnet that a garage poses to traffic.

I don't drive, so I don't care so much for a garage as such. I just want to see something other than that scar on the river that is our present station. I want something I can be proud of when I catch a bus, and something that tells our visitors from the train what a proud, great community we are.

But realistically, there hasn't been enough parking from the day it opened in 1987, so parking it is. The traffic's already here. It's already here. I'd like to see fewer people compelled to drive because we improved our public transit, but we can't improve our transit without taking steps like this first.

One good idea--a flag stop at South Salem near Salem State College--got shot down because of parking concerns, despite the fact that this was not going to be a full station, but just a stop to service the college. Now the college shuttle bus takes up space downtown and students fill the 455 bus to bursting. Great.

Until we can respect our public transit enough to pay for it (and from the furor over Question One, we don't trust our government to do anything let alone spend money) I will be writing this again in ten years time.

(see also "Time running out for Salem, Beverly garages".)

UPDATE:  The station was on the list of matters discussed with Governor Patrick at a closed-door meeting at City Hall

1 comment:

David W. Irish said...

about 20 years ago, I used the Salem Depot for a while, when I was living in Salem, and working in Boston. I agree there never were enough parking spaces, and the "honor system" used for paying for parking was sort of a joke. Salem should have had a garage back then. I think that the current economic problems will just push things back even further. I've seen parking garages go up in a matter of months in Boston, and can't imagine that with the typical $3.00 fee paid to park at most MBTA lots, that the garage could not pay for itself in just a few years. I bet if they triple the capacity of the current lot, that it still wouldn't be enough.