I’m suffering from a bit of cognitive dissonance as I write these words; my generally optimistic perspective and “rose colored glasses” view of my hometown contrasted with my apocalyptic outlook for the American Empire and industrial society. Apart from one obvious exception I see in Springfield a community moving in the right direction and making smart choices about where to invest and how, but doing so as part of a nation which is foundering fiscally, financially, and philosophically.
Today one local television station’s top 4 stories are all connected to the grand re-opening of Union Station after more than 4 decades:
Passenger rail connected improvements have been made from Springfield south to New Haven, and from Springfield north to Greenfield. Just one engine in service with the necessary number of cars circulating from Greenfield to Springfield daily could connect the Valley in ways we’ve literally never experienced before. In January, 12 trains a day will carry passengers from our new Union Station to New Haven, connecting it to the Metro North commuter line into New York City. A regional rail study recommends connecting Boston to Montreal with daily train service; doing so would require improvements to a small portion of the Springfield to Boston line which would not only make Union Station the connecting point for the trip to Montreal, but would also facilitate more frequent east-west service to Boston, an idea that many are seeking to have studied in depth.
For me the reopening of Union Station means that anyone arriving by “Metro North-North”, Amtrak, Peter Pan, or Greyhound to Springfield will be able to connect to the PVTA G-5 and be dropped off within 20′ of my front steps if the 10 minute walk is too much:
Despite my earlier doubts and disappointment over the location and design of the parking structure, I am now convinced that the Lyman Street entrance is not only, as I suggested, the ideal pedestrian access point to the station, but that it would have been even if the Main Street frontage had been designed by Andrés Duany himself.
Most people will exit the station and find themselves in one of the most walkable, dynamic, and interesting neighborhoods in the city with Develop Springfield and Mass Development working together with others on the Transformative Development Initiative district and its new restaurants, cafes, businesses, and non profits centered around one of the city’s most important public spaces.
If the enormous MGM development were not rising a few blocks to the south then this combination of intermodal transportation and pedestrian centered development would be the most singularly important event in the city in the last quarter century.
Here in Massachusetts I hope we can avoid the temptation to take whatever federal money might be offered for expanding or elaborating even more ridiculously our auto centered transportation system. In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene the federal government paid $7 million to repair a tiny stretch of road in a Massachusetts town with fewer than one thousand residents. That’s a level of subsidy that would fund the entire budget of the City of Springfield for 20 years (including road repairs).There’s talk of creating a new exit on the Mass Turnpike for the “Hill Towns” between Westfield and Lee; doing so would only encourage the destruction of more agricultural land for exurban residential development that would not only never pay back the initial investment but furthermore, would continue to burden the various towns, the state, and the nation for decades with more people in places that simply don’t function in ways that add up to a prosperous or resilient society.