The Worcester Regional Transit Authority's new hub on Foster Street and associated changes should make the bus service "more efficient, more effective," WRTA Administrator Stephen F. O'Neil said.
The Worcester Regional Transit Authority will have two public hearings this week to discuss how its bus routes will change when its newhub opens April 20.
The first hearing will be at 1 p.m. Tuesday in the Levi Lincoln room in City Hall. The second will be at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the SaxeRoom of the Worcester Public Library.
Starting April 20, all 25 fixed routes will start and end at the WRTA's new hub on Foster Street, which is adjacent to Union Station's commuter rail and intercity bus terminal. "Anything that's on wheels,that's where it will be," Mr. O'Neil said.
Many WRTA routes will still stop at City Hall, which has been the system's de facto hub, but some will not, namely Routes 5, 8, 18, 23,24, 26 and 31, according to maps the WRTA provided last week. Even routes that continue to stop at City Hall may see their location in that area change.
Bus departures from the new hub should be within three minutes of their current departures from City Hall, according to the WRTA. An average of 35 buses will go through the hub each hour, according to William J. Lehtola of Spencer, chairman of the WRTA Advisory Board.
As part of the reconfiguration, the WRTA is eliminating the stop across Main Street from City Hall, which might cut down on the number of pedestrians who jaywalk across four lanes of traffic to try to catch a bus.
The new hub should also reduce the number of people dashing aroundWorcester City Hall and the Common to catch or transfer to a bus at one of four stops. Although City Hall will still have four stops (onewill be at the back near the Burnside Fountain, aka Turtle Boy statue), riders might find it easier to transfer at the new hub.
At the hub, eight buses at a time will fit around a single island.Once passengers are on that island, all they have to do is walk across it to make their connection. They'll also be under a roof, and electronic signs - both visual and audio - will tell them when their busis coming. There will be ticket vending machines inside and outside.The building will house restrooms, a coffee shop, customer service (now in the Mechanics Hall building) and the WRTA's administrative offices (now at 287 Grove St.).
Buses will approach the hub from all directions, but those coming from the Washington Square rotary in front of Union Station will haveto go past the hub, turn left on Front Street, left on Franklin Street and left again on Foster to get into the driveway, meaning passengers coming from that direction will have to watch the hub go by once before they loop back to get off.
The hub will be open from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays, from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays and from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sundays, Mr. O'Neil said.
Some changes are also coming to routes away from the hub. Because of changes elsewhere, bus service along Main and Lincoln streets should be more frequent and evenly spaced, for a bus approximately every 10 minutes. Currently, passengers can wait anywhere from five to 35 minutes between buses on those lines, said James Parker, assistant general manager of Central Mass Transit Management. Riders may get help finding out when their bus will arrive by going to www.therta.com, clicking on "services" and "new technologies" and signing up for text alerts. People can also call (508) 296-TRAK (8725) or use a QR code ata bus stop.
Meanwhile, Route 19 will end at Goddard Drive and Coppage Drive near the airport on weekdays, because no one was getting off after thatpoint, Mr. Parker said. Route 19 will stop going to the Leicester Walmart on weekdays, but Route 33 will go there.
Downtown, some buses will move from Main Street to Major Taylor Boulevard, a change needed to serve MCPHS students, St. Vincent Hospital's new cancer center and the DCU Center, said Mary Ellen Blunt, transportation program manager with the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission.