Certainly, the number of people who choose to walk or bike to the downtown train station is a great testimony to Salem's status as one of the country's great urban neighborhoods. But the purpose of the garage the T plans to build there is to provide those living in more distant places both within and outside the city an opportunity to use public transportation, as well.
Some may not like the idea of having more traffic on their streets, but by its very nature a city serves as a hub where people come to work, sample the restaurants, go to school, visit the museums, and, yes, catch the train or bus that will take them to other destinations.
Yet a train station that originally was to hold 1,000 cars has been whittled down to about half that size.
The latest garage design submitted by the MBTA provides only a slight increase in the number of parking spaces that exist now at the MBTA's open lot and along Bridge Street. Thus we fully support Mayor Kim Driscoll and the T's efforts to raise an additional $5 million to put a fifth deck with an additional 150 parking spaces on the structure.
Based on early schematics, MBTA planners are doing everything possible to enhance the passenger experience and remain sensitive to the historic fabric of downtown Salem. They've done a lot with the $31.8 million that's been allocated for the project.
But we hope that in the end those at the Statehouse will have the foresight to accommodate the increasing numbers of people who — given rising gas prices and irksome congestion on the highways leading into Boston — will seek to use the new garage at what is already the busiest stop within the commuter rail system.