Upham's Corner Online

Rep. Henriquez holds MBTA Walk-Through in North Dorchester.

Posted: June 24, 2011     Nancy J Conrad

On Friday, June 24, 2011, Rep. Carlos Henriquez and MBTA General Manager Richard Davey walked through a section of North Dorchester for well over an hour. 

Their goals?  Discuss transit related issues raised by constituents and engage in a visioning process. 
  • How to take care of the "green" and security/safety around the Fairmount corridor tracks  along Alexander Street
  • Transit changes that will support economic development on Quincy Street
Joining them were Pablo Calderon,  MBTA Communication and Coordination Specialist, Stephanie Neal-Johnson, MBTA Director of Public Affairs and Community Relations, Danielson Tavares, aide to Rep. Henriquez, Erika Guerra from Dorchester Bay and Nancy Conrad from Upham's Corner News . 

Starting at DSNI on Dudley St, the group walked over to the commuter rail line, down Alexander Street along the Fairmount corridor tracks, then onto Quincy St and over to Blue Hill Avenue.  

Funds from ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) have been used to provide a substantial upgrade to what is referred to as "street furniture."  These are the benches and related items (trash barrels) placed at transit stops.  The latest rollout consists of high quality metal benches and matching waste barrels.

In Upham's Corner benches have been placed at Humphreys & Dudley, and at many locations on Hancock Street. Note that if the sidewalk is narrow, benches may be prohibited as the space remaining must be ADA compliant. MBTA Bench

Meetings are planned for Upham's Corner to garner support and identify unintended consequences. 

Richard Davey: "We want to try to find places such as schools, hospitals, health centers where clientele or customers could really use this type of seat."  Currently, none of the bus stops within the Upham's Corner business district have the new furniture installed including the following stops:
  • Dudley and Monadnock
  • Dudley and Columbia at the Check Cashers
  • Dudley and Belden
  • Dudley and Columbia at Payless
  • Columbia in front of Bank of America
Everyone agreed that the new street furniture being put out by the MBTA adds a lot to the overall appearance of the business district.

Request:  Schedule street furniture meetings soon as the other benches in Upham's Corner have been in place for about a year.
Rep. Henriquez:  "Residents are concerned about safety - lighting at night and blindspots." 

Here's the problem:  To access the Inbound platform, you have to travel down a narrow corridor that is isolated on two sides - the station on one side and the Leon building on the other side. 
  • For handicapped users, the path is the full length of the corridor
  • For walkers, the stairs are half the distance back
In both cases, you cannot see if there is a "hazard" lurking on the stairs/ramp until you are already "trapped" in the corridor. By comparison the other side of the platform - outbound - is open to full view (and safe).  

Richard Davey:  "For security, cameras are the better way to go.  We are adding cameras to the new stations on the corridor.  At this point there are no cameras at the Upham's Corner stop of the Fairmont line.  The MBTA is a tier one system as defined by the Department of Homeland Security. MBTA transit system is a potential target.  So cameras are being set up as part of the safeguard.  At the present time we have 1000 cameras out installed."

Mr. Davey also explained that the MBTA is capable of real-time monitoring.  That is how they managed the crowds for the Bruins parade.  They were able to determine when the tracks would be overloaded and when additional trains were needed at Park Street, just to name a few examples. 

Request:  Install safety enhancements at this commuter rail station - lights, mirrors, cameras - whatever is sufficient to guarantee safe passage and use of this station.

Murals have been painted on the station platform supports starting at ground level, both on the Kroc Center side of the station and underneath the tracks on both sides of Dudley Street. 

Richard Davey:  "I love the murals painted at the Fairmont station.  The murals create a sense of community ownership."

We pointed out that the mural on the Kroc side of the platform has deteriorated primarily because the concrete underneath is beginning to deface.  

On East side of the tracks are what appear to be "planters."  While the hanging ivy is aesthetic, the plants at the ground surface level appear to be overgrown with weeds.  

Leon Building (not a T issue)  

Many people have asked that this ugly building be taken down.  The owner has been holding out for years for the "right price," the most valuable offer.  Even so, the building has not useful infrastructure and needs to be gutted before any work can be done.

Rep. Henriquez suggests a different approach:  Move all the businesses into the building and create an Upham's Corner mall.

  • Repair the deteriorating concrete and repaint (as appropriate) the mural.
  • Plant foliage that helps keep out the weeds.
The MBTA property line follows the commuter rail and establishes the property line within our community.  The "Mayor of Alexander Street," Franco, who lives at 117 Alexander Street is a strong advocate for the neighborhood and comments frequently about the condition of the commuter line corridor.  

The group walked down Alexander Street along the tracks and identified the following:

  • Sections along the tracks clearly visible from Dudley St overgrown with brush
  • Foliage spilling out through, and over the fence partially or fully blocking the sidewalk
  • A set of large chain-link gates, with a gap at the bottom large enough to allow human access to the tracks

Emphasis was placed on the importance of keeping the sidewalks clear.  Forcing pedestrians to walk in the street because of overgrown trees and bushes is creating a safety hazard.

Richard Davey:  The MBTA workers are required to be out on the tracks three times a week using a high rail vehicle which is a truck designed to travel tracks.  They look for issues with the tracks but we can also ask them to make note of other problems such as high brush and cut fences.  

Note: Cleaning up the brush can be complicated by the different areas of ownership - MBTA, MBCR (Mass Bay Commuter Rail) and City of Boston. 
  1. Cut the brush back even with the fence
  2. Repair the chain-link gates to prevent access to the tracks
  3. Cut the foliage close to the tracks at Dudley Street and other such visible locations
  4. Inspect the fences regularly to make sure there is no access to the tracks
  5. Have the high rail units inspect for conditions along the corridor more than just track conditions

It is difficult to travel "diagonally", say for example, from Egleston to Upham's Corner without having to use two buses/trains.  Between Franklin Park and Dudley there are no buses that travel East/West.  It would be nice to be able to travel along Quincy Street to Warrent Street.

Dorchester Bay is doing work along Quincy Street, improving both the business and residential areas.  As a result they expect an increase in the number of people commuting. 
Request: Consider adding a bus route along Quincy Street that connects to Warren St. 
Rep. Henriquez: "Would it be helpful to look at where the bus stops are and if changes in the locations would be beneficial to both the MBTA and the riders?  Do the residents feel like there are too many stops so that it slows the bus down when you're trying to get to work or get home from work?"  

Richard Davey:  "You've hit the nail on the head.  We are going to be having some public meetings with the #15.  Generally, we like stops spaced 700 to 1200 feet apart.  In some areas we have stops 200 feet apart so that for the bus, it is a lot of stop and go.  Like politics, all stops are local.  No matter where you move the stop, someone is not going to be happy.  But what if you only have to walk another minute or 90 seconds?  And how will such a change impact travel time and traffic?  

The MBTA system has 8000 bus stops.  Rather than changing bus stops ad hoc, we (MBTA) plan to use a community process.  For example putting a stop at a school or church or hospital or community health center would seem to make sense.  

Request: Schedule community meetings to talk about bus stops but give the community plenty of lead time since we want to encourage feedback via e-mail, phone calls and community meetings.
Because of the commuter rail tracks, there is no way to access Columbia Road from Alexander Street until you get to Quincy Street.  The Bird Street Bridge provides a way for pedestrians to cross over the commuter rail tracks.  It connects the Columbia Road side of Bird Street to Alexander Street.  

The group walked up the stairs of the Bird Street bridge.  It felt stable but the underpinnings were clearly rusted.  The group also discussed safety lighting.  Apparently installation of lights is not so simple because of inadequate power source.

Richard Davey:  "The Bird Street Bridge appears to be in relatively good shape.  It certainly will not be eliminated.  We will inspect it to determine what needs to be done - things like priming and safety issues."  The group weighed in on the color blue that was used on the Quincy Brdge that you can see from the top of the Bird Street Bridge.  If appropriate, we can get the neighborhood involved."
  1. Inspect the bridge for safety and deterioration.
  2. Paint  (prim) the bridge
  3. If possible, install safety lights

Small Businesses

Richard Davey:  Ortega Furniture is a small hardware and furniture store on Quincy Street. When we did the Columbia Road bridge and the Quincy bridge, we used Ortega furniture to provide us with small supplies.  Any time the MBTA is doing a project, we look for the businesses that are close to the worksite.  It's a matter of efficiency.  Rather than driving a mile to a larger facility, you travel quickly to the local site.  We always make sure we identify the local business.  That way they get a little piece of the project also.

Closing Comments

Richard Davey:  "We are a cash strapped organization like everyone else but there are things we should be able to do without a problem that can make a big difference in the neighborhood." 

Project Accountability

Pablo Calderon,  MBTA Communication and Coordination Specialist, has been given responsibility for coordinating the issues identified during the walk.  He and Rep. Henriquez are in the process of agreeing to the project scope, parties responsible and time frames.

Upham's Corner News will work with this group to keep the community informed about progress.

MBTA Tour North Dorchester
At the Fairmount Upham's Corner station
MBTA Tour North Dorchester
For the Inbound platform, the access ramp
is narrow, deep and isolated.

MBTA Tour North Dorchester
Walking down Alexander Street
MBTA Tour North Dorchester
Foliage overhanging the fence along the rail corridor

MBTA Tour North Dorchester
Old gate with a gap that allows
human access to the tracks
MBTA Tour North Dorchester
Newer gate a little further down -
tight and secure

MBTA Tour North Dorchester
Foliage at Alexander and Quincy
fully blocking the sidewalk

MBTA Tour North Dorchester
Tall grass and weeds at Ceylon and Quincy
adjacent to the tracks and visible from the street.

MBTA Tour North Dorchester
Approaching the Bird Street Bridge
MBTA Tour North Dorchester
Climbing the stairs
MBTA Tour North Dorchester
Cross walk over the tracks

MBTA Tour North Dorchester
Looking out from the cross walk
MBTA Tour North Dorchester
And from the other side

MBTA Tour North Dorchester
Time to turn around
MBTA Tour North Dorchester
Looking down from the top

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