For Union Station to reach potential, customer amenities must be priority

May 14, 2019 | G. Michael Dobbs

When it comes to economic development projects, the immediate goal is getting them constructed and running. The long-term goal, though, is for them to operate at the project’s full potential.

Take Union Station in Springfield, for example. It was necessary to completing a piece of downtown development and our transportation infrastructure. People who know me know I’m a big fan of the project. I’ve written about it a lot and even take visitors to town to it to show it off.

Take the establishment of the Connecticut commuter line service to Springfield. It’s a great idea and service.

There is enormous potential for economic growth by having an additional link between Springfield and communities in Connecticut. When the commuter line begins its pilot program this summer with service to Greenfield, Holyoke and Northampton, that potential is increased dramatically.

There are some kinks though that must be worked out.

A very good friend of mine has a business in downtown Springfield. She lives in Hartford and decided the other night after she closed to take the commuter line back home.

There was a train at 9:45 p.m. She went to Union Station and had time to wait. She wanted a coffee while she waited to board the train. The Dunkin’ Donuts had closed by then, as well as the convenience store.

To make matters worse the train was late.

You cannot build a ridership if your trains are late. You cannot have a transportation hub operating without traveler amenities.

My friend was not the only person waiting, but she and her fellow travelers could not get a simple beverage.

That is not smart, to say the least. There wasn’t even a vending machine.

If you’re going to have a multi-million dollar restored train and bus station the very least you can do is to make sure at least one of the shops offering food or beverages is open as late as there are buses or trains arriving or departing.

Yes, yes, I’m sure the operating times for these shops was determined by the leases and I’m sure the store operators wanted to maximize their profits by not being open at off-peak times.

But the point of a transportation center is to provide travelers with elements that will make them comfortable: a safe environment, clean rest rooms, places to wait and availability of food and drink.

As a Springfield patriot I’m always trying to boost my city. When my friend told me about her experiences I could offer no defense or explanation. This is a very poor move on the part of the management of Union Station.

People need to feel safe and comfortable. Having just one place open late a night will help achieve that goal.

A postscript about the expanded commuter rail service: for that line to be a success, for the sake of humanity, the state of Connecticut need to have operating toilets in those cars.

And please, make sure those trains run on time.

One down...

Congrats to the Chicopee police for making an arrest of a driver operating a motorcycle illegally in the city. Andy Peralta of Springfield was riding his motorcycle with a group in the city. Chicopee Police Information Officer Mike Wilk wrote, “He [Peralta] stated this was his first time riding with this group, and he acknowledge their dangerous driving put others at risk. He was not able to flee due to his battery dying. He stated that the riders ‘eat red lights’ as they drive through cities. It was learned that his right to drive was suspended.”

By the way the arrested man was no kid. He is 29 years old.

Wilk added, “These are people who are set out to create chaos and disturb others peace, and to operate negligently causing panic. We also have reports of them, again, surrounding a vehicle, and tormenting people. That is being investigated as well. We will not tolerate these individuals tormenting people just trying to go about their day. If you see them, call us ASAP.”

I’m glad an arrest was made and I hope more will follow.

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