One of the primary reasons I am able to continue to live in Salem is the community’s access to the MBTA commuter rail.  I don’t own a car and have no intention of ever owning one.

While the scale and diversity of downtown Salem ensure I can walk to or from everything I might need; the commuter rail, though far from perfect, offers a degree of freedom.

So I’ve been following what’s been a rather lot of MBTA news quite closely recently.

Amidst a financial crisis that has caused the system to threaten cutting service entirely on nights and weekends, the City of Salem has been engaged in designing a new $30 million parking garage.

At the public meeting Tuesday night, very preliminary plans for a 500 car concrete garage were revealed.  The concensus was that increasing the number of spaces to 500 from 300 won’t solve any problems — it will be full when it opens — and that the architect’s additive design strategy was simply tacky.

Lots of numbers were bandied about, most significantly in my mind: 2/3 of users at the system’s busiest station are pedestrians or bicyclists.  What if two-thirds of $30 million went to enhancing the experience of these users rather than housing cars?

The converse argument is of course that more people would take the train if they had a place to park.  Perhaps that’s true.

I think it’s more true, however, that people don’t take the train because it doesn’t run at convenient times and is relatively expensive ($10.50 round trip, Salem-Boston).

I still find it hard to believe that in an effort to save the system from financial collapse, $30 million is better spent on cars than public transit directly.

Would it cost $30 million to increase service and lower fares?

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