Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Government Center station closure: public meeting

Here are my notes from the meeting which took place today (hopefully slides will be on the website soon, some images posted here meantime):

  • The speaker for the presentation was Don Schwartz of HDR.
  • The new glass head-house will have entries on 3 sides with 6 doors.
  • The old, closed-down Blue Line mezzanine will be turned into an emergency exit only.
  • There will be a smaller head-house to accommodate that emergency exit.
  • This will require shifting Cambridge Street slightly north:
  • They will cut the median strip from 20 feet down to 6 feet in order to preserve existing parking and travel lanes
  • They will also take the opportunity to paint bike lanes and widen the sidewalks
  • The Scollay Square intersection will be redone to be more pedestrian friendly
  • Curb extensions, exclusive pedestrian phase, fix it from being "just a road that happens to have pedestrians" to one that is friendly to walking
  • The stairs outside the station head-house will be eliminated and the plaza will be flattened out for easier accessibility
  • Inside they plan to have about 9-10 fare gates
  • Two elevators going from street to Green Line, two separate elevators going from Green Line to Blue Line (site too constrained to combine them)
  • There will be some sort of precast concrete floor that is "less slippery" and the stairs will "allow daylight" through to the station beneath
  • There will be two sets of stairs and two escalators, so you can go left or right as you enter the station
  • It looks like the stairs are aligned and adjacent with the Haymarket-bound track
  • They intend to widen the Haymarket-bound platform from the current (less than) 3 feet to 10 feet.
  • The power substation will be replaced in order to power the elevators

The "keep it open" alternative was considered and rejected:

  • An extra year would have been devoted to constructing entirely temporary platforms and access
  • 32+ weekend diversions of the "entire" Green and Blue Lines would be needed
  • All Green Line trains would need to be double-stopped to let off passengers, due to construction blocking the platform
The "total closure" alternative they claim saves 18 months and $20 million. They project an additional 9-10 minutes of travel time for all passengers who were using the station and are now diverted.

  • The Blue Line Bowdoin station will be open full-time on a trial basis: they will monitor usage and decide if it is worthwhile
  • The Green Line "B" and "D" service will terminate and loop at Park Street station, except during the off-peak when service on the "D" branch will be sent further to turn back at North Station.
  • As a result of the shorter trip-time, a single train in service on the "B" branch will be shifted to bolster the "C" branch instead.
  • There will be a shuttle bus that loops between Haymarket, Bowdoin and State.
A lot of people came along to comments, and many were not happy at all about the closure:

  • One of the biggest concerns from multiple East Boston residents was the crowding on the Orange Line, making it nearly impossible to perform the one station hop between State and Park during rush hour. The platforms at State are too small and overcrowded. It's already really bad on the Orange Line, this will make it worse. One of the responses from the MBTA Project Manager Tom Nee was that they had simulated the platform issues, using AFC data, and that it was feasible.
  • Will there be out-of-system transfers? The answer: nothing more than is currently supported. They are "unable to reprogram" the AFC system to be more flexible.
  • Along those lines several called for answers on the Red/Blue connector which should have been at least designed as part of the Big Dig mitigation. "Many of our concerns would fade away if that existed." Of course this was brushed off as out of scope.
  • Someone asked why the Blue Line mezzanine wasn't being used as a proper entrance. The given reason was that it would require the relocation of many more utilities and have more impacts on the street. The cost was too high. The current plan only requires the relocation of one utility.
  • It was estimated by one commenter that this would add at least 7 hours to every East Boston/Government Center commuter's trip time per week.
  • Would the Blue Line platform gain additional ventilation? It seems that the answer was "no."
  • Some suggestions: install a Hubway at Bowdoin, allow bikes on the Blue Line at all times, and set up a trial shuttle bus from East Boston to Charles/MGH and see if that helps alleviate some of the problem.
  • The pavers they are choosing for the station came under criticism as being tough on disabled folks using wheelchairs. She also asked for more of the wider faregates because during rush they become monopolized by able-bodied folks in a hurry. Quote: "this is a station being built for the past."
  • A few residents asked the project management to please go stand at State and the other downtown platforms during rush hour and see what it was like before they return to other public meetings.
  • Nina Garfinkel from Livable Streets asked if they would consider "priority bus lanes" for the shuttles, more Hubway stations, and whether they had considered a good plan to guide people around the closure?
  • A couple of people were wondering why the head-house was 2 stories tall and if they were considering sight-lines to the harbor and various landmarks (someone even claimed to like seeing City Hall!)? The answer was that the station fit into the BRA master plan and was intended to be a landmark itself, and that it was the smallest structure in the vicinity.
  • A Blue/Red commuter said "it is bad NOW" and then asked if they could consider that shuttle between East Boston and Charles/MGH or South Station, or alternatively, work on making the Silver Line useful to East Boston residents.
  • Is it possible to shorten the closure, 2 years is unreasonable? Fill station with workers, get it done, don't waste money on a glass cathedral.
  • Would they confirm that there will be work done 24/7 for 2 years to get this done ASAP? Some nodding, but no firm answer.
  • Granite stairs are difficult for those with poor vision to see when walking down on darker days, consider something more visible.
  • Have new GM meet with the community before anything.
  • The State Street platform is too narrow, did they account for baby strollers, carts, carriages, bikes and other obstacles in their simulation? It's a public safety hazard as is.
  • Will there be a further walk from City Hall to the station? It seems as if it would only be very slightly, if at all, and the new path will be fully accessible and rebuilt all the way from point to point.
  • Will the intersection be improved in the earlier phases in order to promote walking from Park Street to Government Center? No, they said that the street-level improvements will be one of the last things to happen.
  • Can there be a shuttle from State to Park? The answer seemed to be "no" because there was no easy way to run a shuttle on that route due to one-way streets and congestion.
  • Will there be a down escalator? Yes, one of the escalators will be going down.

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