, Salem, MA


November 15, 2012

MBTA earns kudos for Salem garage process

It’s not often that a state agency begins a public meeting with an apology, as the MBTA did the other night, telling harried commuters that it was sorry for giving them such short notice recently before blocking off 225 parking spots at the Salem depot.

It may be just as infrequent that state officials, and the MBTA in particular, hear a thank you. But that’s just what we think they deserve, going through what has been a torturous route to an upgraded Salem station with a new garage.

Originally, the cash-strapped T planned a puny, concrete structure that would have provided only a few more spaces than are available now. But as the process continued, the agency listened to Salem leaders and Salem citizens. It committed an additional $5 million to try to give the city the depot it needs, as one of the busiest, if not the busiest, commuter rail stop in the state.

And at each stage, the T has listened to comments and criticisms and tried to find ways to accommodate them. So, for example, when critics complained that the planned concrete garage was ugly and didn’t blend in with historic Salem, brick facades were added to soften the effect. When commuters pleaded for relief from the wind whipping off the North River on freezing winter mornings, an indoor waiting area was created.

The latest proposal, presented this week at the T’s fourth design hearing, is not perfect. The indoor waiting room is a whole lot better than the exposed platform that’s there now, but without heat it’s still going to be uncomfortable, and that’s a huge disappointment to many commuters.

But at some point, it’s a matter of facing reality: The money is limited, and some compromises have to be made.

What we appreciate is the T’s willingness to come back, over and over again, listen to what Salem residents have to say and then do its best to respond. It’s the way government should work.

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