I ended last week’s post with a snarky comment about Asheville and Grand Forks. Right on cue, as I’m doing some Saturday afternoon light reading in preparation for today’s contribution to my ouevre, I see this:
It’s too perfect: A.R.T.. And it doesn’t mean what you think it means. It’s “Asheville Redefines Transit”. Wow, The oh, so important story at the heart of this article summarized and linked to on this website which caters to city planners all over the world? Asheville is buying seven 30′ long diesel-hybrid buses instead of 50′ long electric buses. And spending some cash to renovate this:
a.r.t.’s sole transit station.
Spectacular. That really is great news for Asheville’s transit patrons who count on “art” for over a million transit rides a year:
What does this have to do with Rational Urbanism?
I started this blog just over 7 years ago because I couldn’t find anything with an urbanist’s perspective written about Springfield or cities like Springfield. There was (and is) always plenty to read about the superstar cities, and trendy cities, and even a fair amount about rapidly declining cities, but almost nothing about the places in the middle; so I decided to do it myself. It hasn’t caught fire, or even gone viral very often which perhaps explains why Planetizen and CityLab continue to ignore Springfield and places like it.
But for anyone who is interested in, let’s say, public transportation, there are some pretty interesting things going on in this northeast provincial backwater. For comparison, here are some numbers:
Yes, Springfield’s PVTA (Yes, that’s Pioneer Valley Transit Authority, think of the “V” as a “U” and remind yourself that 1) most of the PVTA’s riders are Hispanic, 2) “The Pioneer Valley” was just a name given to this region by marketing experts hoping to get vacationers to stop here on their way to the Berkshires, and 3) apparently anything is better than putting “Springfield” in your name!) has ten times the ridership of a.r.t..
And apart from these two ancillary stations in Holyoke and Westfield:
Both somewhat recently opened, the PVTA has only been using this little ol’ place as its primary hub for two years:
And just opened this new facility:
And the Union Station hub has added at 14 daily trains on two new services going north and south, and creating increased east-west service appears to be on the front burner in Boston.
I mean, it’s not 7 whole new buses or anything, but it seems like a tiny little revolution in transit for a region of 3/4 of a million people.
This goes for the MGM development too, by the way. A corporation with a name perhaps second only to Disney in entertainment plops down a billion dollar development in the heart of a struggling formerly industrial city in New England and…I haven’t seen any in depth coverage on it show up anywhere but in local news outlets. Leaving aside that the world’s largest rail car manufacturer decided to place its North American headquarters here as it produces rolling stock for Boston, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia, (maybe that belongs in the transit story?), or the redevelopment of one of the oldest hotels in the United States along with an amazing baroque style theater, just the MGM story has about 10 angles to it. Which I’m trying to get to, by the way, but it’s almost like my job as a Spanish teacher gets in the way.
I’ll take this to the bank, though. There is no better place to be in the month of September in the entire world than Springfield, Massachusetts. It’s not just the Basketball Hall of Fame and its yearly induction of the greatest players and coaches ever in the world’s second most popular sport, it’s the Mattoon Street Arts festival, Glendi, and JamFest, and, of course, the largest fair in the east, New England’s great state fair, The Eastern States Exposition. I can literally look out my back window and see Six Flags New England, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and MGM Springfield, and I can walk out my front door and be at “The Big E”, on foot, in a few minutes.
Next month the symphony starts its new season, the Thunderbirds are back in the nest at the Mass Mutual Center, and it will be time to settle in and watch the leaves change along the longest navigable river in New England and up and down the foothills of the Berkshires. Sure, we don’t have more craft breweries per capita than anyplace else in the world, but maybe dulling your senses in the Pioneer Valley in autumn would be a pretty stupid thing to do.