Breaking: Waverley Station To Remain Open for 10 More Years

Photo: The Waverley Station.

It’s not used by many riders, it’s difficult to get around and it’s in need of a great deal of maintenance. And that’s what the MBTA says about Waverley Station, which runs the commuter rail station in the heart of Belmont’s Waverley Square.

But it now appears that all of Waverley Station’s shortcomings are the major factors which will allow the Fitchburg Line stop to remain open for the next decade, according to Belmont State Sen. Will Brownsberger.

In an e-mail announcement dated Tuesday, June 14, the state’s Architectural Access Board – which in 2014 deemed the station a liability for people with limited access to use the facility – has given the MBTA a 10-year time variance before needed repairs or a new station is required to improve accessibility for riders. 

The announcement came after nearly a year in which the MBTA actively sought to close down the nearly century-old station and create a new stop along South Pleasant Street. That plan was deemed unacceptable by many residents surrounding Waverley Square and the MBTA dropped that plan earlier in the year.

In its decision, the AAB in a letter to the MBTA noted that since the Waverley Station has some of the lowest ridership numbers in the system – only 117 daily passengers arrive or depart from the stop – the board is placing higher priority on improvements at 69 stations and bus stops with much higher use. It also cited a cost of $15 million to $30 million to bring the station up to AAB standards

“[D]ue to the low ridership and high cost to create access, Waverley Station is not considered a ‘priority station’,” read the letter from the AAB to the MBTA explaining the 10 year variance. 

BREAKING: MBTA Rejects New Belmont Commuter Rail Station, But Waverley’s Future Still Up in the Air

Photo: The future of the Waverley Station remains up in the air. 

The MBTA has rejected plans to construct a modern commuter rail station along South Pleasant Street to replace the century-old stop in Waverley Square, State Sen. Will Brownsberger told the Belmontonian this afternoon, Friday, Jan. 22. 

“They heard the concerns from commuters and residents and have abandoned the idea,” said Brownsberger.

In a subsequent note on his web page, Brownsberger said the “MBTA was able to report today that they have concluded categorically that they will not pursue a new station located between Waverley and Belmont Center.” 

The decision comes after residents and town officials at a Nov. 16 public meeting with MBTA officials  voice considerable opposition to the plan initially presented to Belmont in September to construct a $20 million state near the North America Central School Bus depot at 1000 Pleasant St., a few hundred feet from Star Market.

The MBTA advanced the new station plan as a solution to a decision by the state’s Architectural Access Board that earlier ordered the transportation authority to improve access to the Waverley Square commuter rail station in the near future which would allow handicap citizens to take public transportation.

But today’s decision does not assure the future operation of a Waverley Square station, which is currently in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act access requirements.

With the estimated cost of a Waverley Station upgrade – which lies several dozen feet below the street grade and would require – at $35 million, and with less than 120 passengers using the station on weekdays, closing the station remains a possibility.

However, said Brownsberger, “they are still working on defining the options for Waverley station itself given the requirements of the AAB.”

“The MBTA is going over its capital budget and we will know within a month,” said Brownsberger. 

“The MBTA has been devoting considerable attention to internal conversations about how to resolve the questions created by the AAB’s ruling related to Waverley,” said Brownsberger on his web page.

Primer: What to Know about Waverley Station’s Past, Present and Future

Photo: Waverley Station (Wikipedia)

The public meeting being held Monday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. at the Beech Street Center is advertised as representatives from the MBTA and the state’s Department of Transportation updating Belmont residents and commuters on a series of “options” to bring the Waverley commuter rail station up to code with the Americans with Disability Act.

But to Sue Bass of the Belmont Citizens Forum – the community organization seeking to maintain the small-town atmosphere of Belmont by preserving its natural and historical resources, limiting traffic growth, and enhancing pedestrian safety – the meeting isn’t likely to result in a Chinese menu of choices and alternatives for residents to select from. Rather, “hovering over the event” is whether Belmont can retain its “walkable” stations or will the future bring a new, parking dependent facility.

Bass’ Should Waverley Station Close?, written for the Forum’s November/December newsletter, is a history and primer on the issues facing the state, public transportation agency and Belmont concerning the station.

Below is Bass’ analysis, with permission from the Belmont Citizens Forum:

Should Belmont continue to have two commuter rail stations that people can walk to? Or is it better to have just one station with a parking garage that people can drive to? That’s not officially the topic of the MBTA commuter rail presentation on November 16, but it’s the question hovering over the event.

Formally, the meeting is about the T’s need to spend $15 million or more on a station that serves only 117 daily riders—or to close the station entirely. This issue arises because, several years ago, the MBTA spent $353,281 repaving the platform. That was more than 30 percent of the station’s value. In addition, the repaving did not raise the platforms to the level of the trains. Either violation alone—the spending or the failure to raise the platforms—  required that the station is made accessible for handicapped people, with an elevator or ramps, according to the state’s Architectural Access Board. Appeals have failed. The conclusion seems unassailable—make it accessible or close it. (State Sen.Will Brownsberger did what he called “a deep dive” on the issue, available at

For the T, this situation either adds millions to its billion-dollar bill for system-wide repairs and upgrades—or it offers an opportunity to speed up commuter rail service on the Fitchburg line by eliminating a station that draws relatively few riders. In fact, it dangles the chance to replace two stations with low ridership by a single station in the middle, along South Pleasant Street, with a parking garage that could increase the total ridership. Daily ridership at the Belmont Center station was only 168 in April 2013, according to the latest data readily available, from the MBTA’s fascinating Ridership and Service Statistics, 2014, nicknamed the Blue Book, which is available at  The average for the Fitchburg line is 361 boardings per station

For Belmont, sadly, this situation threatens the loss of one or both walkable stations and their possible substitution by a new station to which few could walk—plus a garage that would draw even more traffic to Pleasant Street at rush hours, when it is already jammed.

It’s time for us to do what we do so badly and infrequently: try to look ahead and make wise choices about our future.

To start, why is ridership on the commuter rail so low? From Waverley, the train offers a trip of 10 minutes or less to Porter Square and 20 minutes or less to North Station in Boston. It’s two minutes quicker from Belmont Center.

Parking might be one reason. The MBTA’s Blue Book reports no auto spaces at Waverley, though there are 12 bicycle spaces. It reports 115 auto commuter spaces at Belmont Center, but, in fact, the police department’s traffic office says only 20 spaces are available, at $90 a month—and only a handful of those are spoken for.

Is the price too high, compared with parking downtown? Are people unaware that spaces are available? Would ridership go up if the long-discussed Community Path brings cyclists to the Waverley Square and Belmont Center train stations? Or is the commuter rail service too unreliable, or too infrequent? Do too few people work downtown these days?

Demographically, Belmont should be using more public transportation. “We’re seeing a general trend where the inner core—within [Route] 128—is growing faster than the outer suburbs,” said Eric Bourassa, transportation director for the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. “Part of it is because people do want to be closer to transit and commute in that way.”

Of course, Waverley Square has one of the busiest bus routes in the state, 73, with 6,424 daily boardings along the whole route and 753 at Waverley Station.

At the last meeting between MBTA officials and the Belmont Board of Selectmen, on Sept. 28, T officials said part of the challenge in making the two Belmont stations accessible is that both are on curves. The bend in the tracks makes it much more difficult and more expensive to provide roll-on service to the trains. The straight track along Pleasant Street between Waverley and Belmont Center appealed to the T for that reason.

Several in the audience suggested that a small shift in the location of the stop—a dozen feet or so—might solve that problem, at least at Waverley. Is that true? Would other simple solutions shave millions off the price tags for making Waverley accessible? It’s time to find out.

Sue Bass, director emerita

Opinion: Invest the Money to Keep Waverley Station Accessible

Photo: Waverley MBTA Commuter Rail Station 

By Jim Williams

In September, MBTA General Manager Frank DePaola made a presentation at an open Board of Selectmen meeting concerning handicap accessibility at the Waverley Commuter Rail station. Public comments opposed closing the station and Sami Bagdadhy, chair of the board, stated the Selectmen’s position was that our existing stations should remain open and be handicap accessible. 

Subsequently, a proposed MBTA design charrette was expanded to an open public meeting now scheduled for Nov. 16 at the Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St. Then, in late October,  the MBTA informed the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board of three possible outcomes including making Waverley accessible; closing Waverley; or leaving Waverley open and investing the $30 million estimated to make Waverley compliant with applicable State and Federal accessibility regulations into a system-wide project that would impact a significantly  larger number of customers with disabilities. 

I am standing to support alternative three above for the following reasons:

  1. The proposal of a third alternative defeats the logical fallacy (bifurcation) that only making the Waverley handicap accessible or closing it are the possible remedies when, in fact, there is in reality a range of options.
  2. The previous strategy of building a third station in Belmont and closing the existing two has objectively and overwhelmingly the least favorable cost/benefits profile of any possible solution.
  3. The Fitchburg line has been in existence for more than 125 years and was and still is integral to the economic development and well-being of Belmont.

So what can be done? First, get informed and write letters to the elected, appointed, or employed officials responsible starting with Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. This can make a difference. 

Second, attend the Nov. 16 meeting and let your voice be heard loud and clear. For the MBTA, I recommend working with Belmont’s Economic Development Committee and  Community Path Implementation Committee in addition to the Belmont Disability Access Commission in developing responsible solutions for this important initiative. For the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board,  I recommend exploring with the MBTA the acceptable alternatives that will impact the largest number customers with disabilities. 

In closing, I want to remind everyone listening: The railroad belongs to us; The State and Federal funding involved is our money; We get the government we deserve.  

Jim Williams, Selectman

Glenn Road

This communication is compliant with the State’s Open Access laws as I have not discussed its contents with either Baghdady or fellow Selectman Mark Paolillo.