Opinion: Influence MBTA on Waverley By Writing to Gov’t Officials

Photo: Commuter rail leaving Waverley Station.

We last left off with Belmont Board of Selectmen Chair Sami Baghdady offering to the MBTA representatives a design charette with the Selectmen and an appointed  group of residents around the idea of making the Waverley Station handicapped accessible given the overwhelming public sentiments expressed at the “grande charette” held on Nov. 15 at the Beech Street Center.

Despite this apparent public response, I have a lingering notion that it will be of no consequence because the “fix is in” for a new station to be built on Pleasant Street as proposed by the MBTA in 2010 and now again in 2015.

So, I decided to personally tour each station on the Fitchburg line to see first hand what the accessibility status is of each station with the goal of trying to discern why the Waverley Station options under consideration by the MBTA are so extreme. 

(As a reminder,  they are currently simply closing the Waverley Station or building a new station on Pleasant Street, concurrently  closing Waverley and eventually closing the Belmont Station. Here are the results of the survey:)

There are sixteen stops between and including Fitchburg and Belmont

  • One (Kendall Green) has a locked station in disrepair with a rudimentary platform, no handicap access and no parking 
  • One ( Hastings) is a railroad crossing with no station, shelter, platform or parking.              
  • Two (Littleton and South Acton) have the full build out high platforms and handicap access proposed for the “new” Pleasant Street station. Both have extensive parking (300 spots plus) lots, but not garages. 
  • Two (Fitchburg and North Leominister) have “mini-high” platforms with ramps for handicap access and four story parking garages with elevators.
  • Three (West Concord, Brandeis/Roberts, and Waltham)  have “mini-high” platforms with ramps for handicap access, but limited parking
  • Three (Shirley,  Ayer, and Silver Hill)  have a station-like “shelters,” limited parking and rudimentary platforms with no handicap access,
  • Four (Lincoln, Concord, Waverley, Belmont)  have stations and platforms with no handicap access and limited parking

Briefly, we can summarize:

  1. Two of the stops on the Fitchburg line between the Fitchburg and Belmont Stations have the full buildout proposed for the Pleasant Street location or $30 million Waverley and both have 300-plus parking lots that are not possible at either the Pleasant Street or Waverley locations.
  2. Five stations have mini high platforms and ramps for handicap access. 
  3. Four stations including Waverley and Belmont could have mini high platforms and ramps providing handicap access at the platform level.
  4. Five stops are just stops and are unlikely ever to be upgraded to stations.  
Briefly, we can conclude:
  1. Practically speaking,  there are only 11 stops that could be considered for the station upgrade the MBTA is proposing for the Pleasant Street location or Waverley Station.
  2. However, large-scale parking lots or garages are required to justify such stations, and neither Pleasant Street nor Waverley meets this hurdle.
  3. Alternatively, the MBTA could install mini high platforms with ramp access at the platform level at the Lincoln, Concord, Waverley, and Belmont Stations.
  4. Platform access would have to be provided at the Waverley and Belmont Stations, but not at the Lincoln or Concord stations as the platforms are at street level in these locations.  
  5. As a result, 100 percent of the 11 stops between Fitchburg and Belmont would be handicap accessible at the platform level.  

So, what can be done?  

As stated in my opening comments, I’m not optimistic that a governmental response will rule the day on this question.  However, it is given that handicap access is a civil right, not an option and using the above approach we can see that the MBTA could achieve a 100 percent handicap access coverage of the Fitchburg line by simply changing the approach to installing mini high platforms in the four remaining stations and providing platform access for Waverley and Belmont. 
I urge concerned residents to organize a coalition of Watertown, Waltham, and Belmont residents to influence the MBTA to move in this direction by writing your municipal representatives, state representatives, Gov. Baker and Lt. Gov. Polito, Congressional representatives, the MBTA and the Mass AAB. I think it will take, at the least, 2,000 letters to be successful.
Disclaimer:  This is my opinion and I have not discussed the content of this letter with either Sami Baghdady or Mark Paolillo.
Jim Williams, Selectman
Glenn Road
 
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