Worcester Historic Aerials or How Urban Renewal Destroyed the Urban Fabric

393b40

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My brother shared this with me... it's got great high quality shots of Worcester from the 50's just when urban renewal was starting to impact the city.

 

Blackbird

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Photo 17/40 does the best job of showing what was lost, imo.

(Mods if it's not ok for me to screengrab from the article, please feel free to delete the image/post)

Before:
1616719196671.png


After:
1616719153708.png
 

Badusername

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Are there any threads / movements / discussions about replacing I-290 with a boulevard? Or at least a cap over some portions? It seems like stitching Worcester back together would be the project that could meaningfully improve the city.
 

393b40

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Are there any threads / movements / discussions about replacing I-290 with a boulevard? Or at least a cap over some portions? It seems like stitching Worcester back together would be the project that could meaningfully improve the city.
No such thread exists.

0% chance 290 is ever converted to a boulevard. It's too busy and too important to the city as a highway. Further, Worcester doesn't have the political weight to even start that discussion at the Federal level.

290 isn't really close to the biggest problem facing Worcester. Besides Belmont Hill, Vernon Hill and Burncoat there isn't much to reconnect. These neighborhoods while dense are car-centric and difficult to navigate regardless of the presence of 290. Finally, I would argue Vernon Hill isn't that badly cut-off in the first place either since 290 actually is below grade for much of the Vernon Hill / Canal District / Kelley Square border.
 

Badusername

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No such thread exists.

0% chance 290 is ever converted to a boulevard. It's too busy and too important to the city as a highway. Further, Worcester doesn't have the political weight to even start that discussion at the Federal level.

290 isn't really close to the biggest problem facing Worcester. Besides Belmont Hill, Vernon Hill and Burncoat there isn't much to reconnect. These neighborhoods while dense are car-centric and difficult to navigate regardless of the presence of 290. Finally, I would argue Vernon Hill isn't that badly cut-off in the first place either since 290 actually is below grade for much of the Vernon Hill / Canal District / Kelley Square border.
That's fair. I'm thinking along the lines of major infrastructure projects that would benefit the city and reduce car dependance. For example, the city put $100 million into the WooSox park (which they shouldn't have). Many infrastructure projects are 80% paid for by the federal government.

The question is what is the most impactful project that could have been done with $100M + state and federal funding? Light rail? Regional rail to Providence and Leominster? BRT?
 

393b40

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That's fair. I'm thinking along the lines of major infrastructure projects that would benefit the city and reduce car dependance. For example, the city put $100 million into the WooSox park (which they shouldn't have). Many infrastructure projects are 80% paid for by the federal government.

The question is what is the most impactful project that could have been done with $100M + state and federal funding? Light rail? Regional rail to Providence and Leominster? BRT?
I don't think Worcester needs BRT (which is distinctly different from having a basic bus system). The WRTA is a mess. The bus system should serve core Worcester neighborhoods consistently but it is frequently late, runs at weird times (or gets cancelled without notice), and has inconvenient stops. The whole system needs to be overhauled into a inner-core and county system.

BRT is something you build when you have really strong commuter patterns and can't afford a real subway system for some reason. Worcester doesn't have much of a commuter problem... most of its economy is very local with a few folks coming into downtown to work office jobs (but thats even rarer now).

So yea where I would spend the money:

1. Upgrade Boston <-> Worcester connectivity more... which is in the cards with East-West Rail Project. I can drive door to door from Worcester to Boston in 45 min off-peak (and even during peak it's not _that_ bad). I used to take CR from Union to South Station on the express line and between house to station, plus train, plus station to office it closer to a 90 min commute and it cost like $300+/mo.
2. Figure out how to fix the WRTA and make the bus serve core neighborhoods consistently. Getting people to the various little spread out village business districts spread around the city effectively (downtown, goldstar, multiple shrewsbury st stops, canal district etc etc.)
3. Explore improving connectivity to Providence... I'm not sure $100 million gets much done rail-wise, but it should be able to get to Providence on a train or a bus without heading into Boston first or using a Peter Pan bus that costs $20.
4. I'd look at better bike infra but the hills in Worcester suck for biking.

For what it is worth, I don't think you can realistically reduce car dependence in Worcester. Central MA is a car-centric place... everything is spread out and the terrain is unfavorable for walking large distances. Economically there isn't enough momentum or demand for real rapid transport. There are districts where you can build pedestrian friendly stuff but they'll be small and the people that live there will expect to own a car because there's not much else beyond a half to one mile radius even in any of the truly dense areas.
 

WormtownNative

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That's fair. I'm thinking along the lines of major infrastructure projects that would benefit the city and reduce car dependance. For example, the city put $100 million into the WooSox park (which they shouldn't have). Many infrastructure projects are 80% paid for by the federal government.

The question is what is the most impactful project that could have been done with $100M + state and federal funding? Light rail? Regional rail to Providence and Leominster? BRT?
- Nuke the WRTA and start over. Bus routes need to be frequent and useful. Not the once an hour and maybe once in a blue moon.
- Study extending the MBTA Worcester Line to Millbury via the P&W Main line.
- Traffic studies and effect changes where appropriate for city traffic.
- Begin the legwork to convert 146 to a proper interstate.

Aside from those 4, then we get into the supporting infrastructure (water/sewer main replacement, school replacements, FD/PD/DPW budgets, etc.).
 

Badusername

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4. I'd look at better bike infra but the hills in Worcester suck for biking.
I know there are regulation issues in the Commonwealth around e-bikes and e-scooters, but assuming those were properly fixed at the state level, Worcester would gain a lot of mobility with a program similar to BlueBikes or just allowing scooter companies to come in.
I know some people don’t like them, but with the proper lanes and designated parking corrals at major destinations, these would be a great addition to the city. In conjunction with a competent bus network, it would be a good first step in reducing auto dependence.
 

ctsketch

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I'm definetely getting an e-assisted bike this year. I live on one of the bigger hills
 

Plen-T-Pak

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I don't think Worcester needs BRT (which is distinctly different from having a basic bus system). The WRTA is a mess. The bus system should serve core Worcester neighborhoods consistently but it is frequently late, runs at weird times (or gets cancelled without notice), and has inconvenient stops. The whole system needs to be overhauled into a inner-core and county system.

BRT is something you build when you have really strong commuter patterns and can't afford a real subway system for some reason. Worcester doesn't have much of a commuter problem... most of its economy is very local with a few folks coming into downtown to work office jobs (but thats even rarer now).

So yea where I would spend the money:

1. Upgrade Boston <-> Worcester connectivity more... which is in the cards with East-West Rail Project. I can drive door to door from Worcester to Boston in 45 min off-peak (and even during peak it's not _that_ bad). I used to take CR from Union to South Station on the express line and between house to station, plus train, plus station to office it closer to a 90 min commute and it cost like $300+/mo.
2. Figure out how to fix the WRTA and make the bus serve core neighborhoods consistently. Getting people to the various little spread out village business districts spread around the city effectively (downtown, goldstar, multiple shrewsbury st stops, canal district etc etc.)
3. Explore improving connectivity to Providence... I'm not sure $100 million gets much done rail-wise, but it should be able to get to Providence on a train or a bus without heading into Boston first or using a Peter Pan bus that costs $20.
4. I'd look at better bike infra but the hills in Worcester suck for biking.

For what it is worth, I don't think you can realistically reduce car dependence in Worcester. Central MA is a car-centric place... everything is spread out and the terrain is unfavorable for walking large distances. Economically there isn't enough momentum or demand for real rapid transport. There are districts where you can build pedestrian friendly stuff but they'll be small and the people that live there will expect to own a car because there's not much else beyond a half to one mile radius even in any of the truly dense areas.
Aren't you essentially laying out a proposal to reduce car dependence? If I have good connectivity, at a competitive cost, to the job centers in Boston and Providence and can get to other neighborhoods within Worcester relatively painlessly, then the groundwork has been laid for better quality of life for those in the city without a car. I can imagine being car free in Providence and Portland, not so much Worcester. But it's a bigger city, so why the hell not? Both of those smaller cities are surrounded by auto-centric sprawl, just like any other city, but they have a vitality in the center that makes them more attractive. I think Worcester can get there with proper leadership.
 

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