ofo, the world’s first and largest station-free bike-sharing company, has been popular among Chelsea residents and has big plans to expand its presences in the area, according to company representatives.
ofo operated pilot programs in four Boston area cities, including Chelsea, from September to December 2017, and looks forward to building on those programs and further expanding in the coming months.
In Chelsea, as across the Greater Boston area, ofo has hired a local team, including experienced fleet managers and mechanics who together have more than 30 years of experience in the local bike industry.
“I was thoroughly impressed with the ofo pilot program as company officials were very responsive from start to finish,” said Councilor at-Large Roy Avellaneda. “As an advocate for eco-friendly and improved public transportation for Chelsea, I was thrilled to be able to have the city offer a bike sharing program to Chelsea residents. The amount of positive feedback from users and the usage data provided by ofo at the end proved two things: 1. That a bike sharing program is needed in Chelsea; 2. There is much room for growth and use in our community.”
The company has worked closely with local city officials to ensure smooth operations leading up to and through launch, and will continue its collaboration to help improve urban travel and ensure all corners of the city have access to this new affordable and convenient way to get around. ofo has also sponsored local events, such as Chelsea’s bike-marathon.
“Collaborating with local officials to bring this affordable, convenient and green transportation option to Chelsea has been a great experience,” said Head of ofo U.S., Chris Taylor. “Thank you to the residents who’ve welcomed us into the community. We look forward to continuing this partnership, growing our business and offering more bikes to folks throughout the Boston area this year.”
ofo currently operates in more than 20 cities across the U.S. and more than 250 cities worldwide. Since ofo’s launch in the greater Boston area in September, users have taken more than 35,000 trips and traveled nearly 70,000 miles.
ofo’s founders pioneered the concept of station-free bike sharing, which eliminated the inconvenience of docking stations and their expense to city taxpayers. The bikes can be parked anywhere and cost only $1 per hour.
To get started, Chelsea residents can download the ofo app available for iOS and Android. The app helps users find a nearby bike via GPS and unlock it by scanning a QR code. Once a ride is complete, locking the bike ends the trip automatically and the user will receive a digital receipt and map of their route.
The new Chelsea Station behind the Market Basket on Everett Avenue is nearly completed now, with a goal of opening up service at the four new stations on the new SL3 line in April.
A projected 19 minute ride with no transfers from downtown Chelsea to the Seaport in Boston is but months away as the MBTA puts the finishing touches on four stations and the dedicated busway in Chelsea’s new Silver Line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line – which will be known as SL3.
Already, a great amount of excitement has built throughout the community as the stations begin to look like finished products and the lettering denoting ‘Eastern Avenue’ and ‘Chelsea’ have been affixed to those stations. A spokesman for the MBTA said the T is excited to start service in April.
“The MBTA and MassDOT are very excited to be just months away from introducing Bur Rapid Transit service for customers traveling to and from Chelsea,” said Joe Pesaturo, for the MBTA. “The MBTA anticipates beginning Silver Line Gateway service in the early spring of next year. The existing Silver Line in Boston has been very popular since its launch because of the frequent levels of service and increased capacity. MBTA General Manager Luis Ramirez is looking forward to a celebration in the spring in Chelsea to mark the start of service.”
The completion of the four new BRT stations and the dedicated busway will conclude Phase 1 of the Silver Line Gateway expansion project – which has essentially brought the Silver Line from Logan Airport over to Chelsea. The new Chelsea service, however, will not go to the airport and the SL3 line will bypass the airport with a stop at the Blue Line Train Station where airport shuttles can be taken to terminals.
In documents presented to the MBTA Board last summer, the new service expects to have a total daily ridership of 8,730 people, with new transit trips being 2,500 (meaning people that will use the service who now do not use the MBTA).
At peak, it is estimated there will be 22 BRT buses on all three Silver Line routes, and that the SL3 Chelsea wait times will be around 10-12 minutes at peak times and 12-15 minutes at off-peak times.
MBTA estimates show that currently to get to the World Trade Center stop in the Seaport from downtown Chelsea takes 37 minutes and requires two transfers. That would be paired down to 19 minutes and no transfers on the new SL3 line.
To go from the airport to the World Trade Center station now takes 20 minutes with one transfer. The SL3 line would take seven minutes and no transfers.
The entire first phase of the Silver Line Gateway project cost $46.5 million and included rebuilding the Washington Avenue bridge, constructing a 1.1 mile dedicated busway, a half-mile shared-use path and the four new stations.
A second phase has been fully funded at about $29 million and includes building the Chelsea Intermodal Center, which includes a new Commuter Rail Station and a new railroad signaling system to improve traffic flow in Chelsea. The new station, unlike the existing station, will be fully accessible. The MBTA expects to solicit construction bids for Phase 2 this winter, with work beginning next summer.
One of the key initiatives for MBTA General Manager Ramirez, he said, is to get a comprehensive strategy for marketing a promoting the new service well in advance of the launch. Many of the new service options introduced by the MBTA in recent years suffer from low ridership due in many cases to people having little information about the new service.
The MBTA right now is working to select a qualified firm to handle the jobs of:
•Advertise the new service to existing and prospective customers.
•Highlight the benefits of Silver Line Gateway service relative to existing bus services in the area, including dedicated lanes and limited stops.
•Promote the ongoing work the MBTA is doing to improve its transportation offerings.
“The firm will work with the MBTA to develop well-rounded marketing and communications strategies that achieve the goals, including but not limited to market research, specifying target audiences, generating message concepts, proposing an effective mix of media, and partnering with local community organizations as part of the public outreach strategy,” said Pesaturo.
The Chelsea Fire Department recently received two new pieces of fire apparatus, and at the moment both are being outfitted a preparing to be put into service.
The Chelsea Fire Department (CFD) has taken delivery of two new fire vehicles this week. Both are currently being outfitted and will be put into service later this month.
First, the new Ladder 2, which replaces a 1999 aerial that runs from the Mill Hill Station on Broadway, was purchased by the City as part of the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). This new truck is currently being customized with equipment and going through the training process, and will be in service by the end of November.
The addition of this new ladder truck gives the department a viable spare aerial device that can be placed in service when a front line ladder is down for service or repairs, which is a great safety net for the city.
Second, the new Rescue 1 will replace the current Squad 5 and a step van that was utilized as a Special Operations vehicle.
This Rescue was acquired through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program that was applied for by Fire Chief Len Albanese.
This $600,000 Rescue was obtained at only a 10 percent co-share by the City. This truck will be equipped with Special Operations equipment, most of which has been provided to the City through the Metro Boston Urban Area Strategic Initiative (UASI) program. As part of the regional preparedness, Chelsea specializes in Technical Search for structural collapse.
When needed for Regional Response, this new Rescue can quickly get a large amount of equipment and to the scene of an incident. This truck will be customized next, once the Ladder is completed. Then the department will conduct additional training and the project will be completed by the end of the year if not sooner.
The department hopes to be able to eventually staff this Rescue with the expansion of the additional eight firefighters obtained through SAFER Grant.
For now, it will be in service – unmanned and taken when needed, the same way the current Squad 5 has been used.
“My goal with the SAFER grant that provided eight additional firefighters and the acquisition of the Rescue was to get more boots on the ground in the field and eventually get the Rescue staffed,” said Chief Albanese. “The city manager and the council have made a commitment to support funding for these projects. Time will tell if we are able to bring this goal to fruition within our budget. There are several factors that will affect that possibility.”
The Chelsea Fire Department (CFD) has begun collecting new, unwrapped, non-violent toys at our Central Station located at
307 Chestnut St., from now until December 15.
Anyone who would like to drop off a toy may come by the station between the hours of 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
Last year the CFD collected three large pickup trucks of toys for the Toys for Tots program. After doing some research, CFD organizers found that there are 750 families and more than 1,300 children in the City of Chelsea who are provided Christmas gifts through the Toys for Tots/Globe Santa program.
Sadly this number has nearly doubled since the first year the CFD started up their drive.
“This program is a great opportunity for all of us to help bring a little happiness into the hearts of so many local families that have so little,” said Phil Rogers.
For those who are needy and looking for donations, time is of the essence as the deadline for requests is Nov. 20.
If an individual family needs toys, they should make contact with their social worker, their Pastor, local city or town hall or The Globe Santa for possible help. The cut-off date for toy requests in 2017 is November 20, Midnight. This is due to the high volume of requests.
Globe Santa- toy request info
contact the Department of Transitional Services at (877) 382-2363.
The Toys for Tots program has been in existence since 1947 when Major Bill Hendricks, USMCR founded Toys for Tots in Los Angeles. Some 5,000 toys were collected during that campaign before Christmas of 1947.
The mission of the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots Program is to collect new, non-violent, unwrapped toys each year and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to needy children in the Greater Boston community. Toys for Tots also wants to assure the less fortunate families throughout the Greater Boston area of Massachusetts that their children will be taken care of throughout the holiday season. There is no better satisfaction than seeing the smile of a child during the holiday season.
“On behalf of all the children made happy and the members of the Chelsea Fire Department, thank you so very much for all of your help,” said Rogers.
The Chelsea Fire Department announced this week that they have secured a major federal grant to pay for the hiring of eight new firefighters in this year’s budget – with Chief Len Albanese saying the new recruits could hit the streets by Thanksgiving.
The Homeland Security grant provides $1.4 million of federal funding over a three-year period, covering 75 percent of the salary and benefits for two years. The third year of the grant will cover 35 percent of the share of salaries and benefits.
In the fourth year of the grant, the City would be responsible for 100 percent of the costs associated with the new hires.
Albanese said that in the end, concerns about not getting the grant due to Chelsea’s Sanctuary City status did not factor into whether the City did or did not get the grant as the application was put in last year.
Overall, the big news is that the Fire Department will go over 100 members for the first time in decades.
The grant will put the contingent up to 102 member.
“We’ve had 92 members for quite a while,” said the chief. “Prior to my arrival and when I got here and that’s a situation I assume goes back to the 1990s – post-receivership. (Last year), we added two members to get up to 94 and with the intention to add more. With the SAFER grant now in place, we can add eight new members and that brings our staffing up to 102…Having 102 is what we consider to be a really good staffing level for the Fire Department.”
He said that Revere’s contingent is at 98 and Everett – which also has a SAFER grant- is at 111.
He said adding the new members won’t eliminate overtime, but he believes it will bring it down to a reasonable number – eliminating what has been many years of controversy surrounding overspending on overtime.
“The purpose is to not just decrease overtime,” he said. “There’s always overtime in a 24/7 business…This will control overtime and put boots on the ground. It will stabilize overtime and increase staffing.”
Already, Albanese said he has identified the eight recruits from Civil Service, having been confident of getting the grant and taking early action. That will mean they get in the Station very quickly.
“We have eight recruits identified and they preparing to attend the Brookline Fire Academy on Sept. 5,” he said. “That means if all goes well, we will have these additional firefighters on the street by Thanksgiving.”
Along with this grant and another recently received, the fire department has garnered $2 million of federal funding from the 2016 DHS/FEMA programs.
Consultants for the City unveiled two main concepts on Thursday night, July 13, for the Re-Imagining Broadway planning effort – concepts that consultants from Nelson Nygaard said were informed on several public listening sessions that have taken place since last fall.
The two plans focus on the area on Broadway from City Hall to Chelsea Square, and consultants have tried to formulate a plan the tried to untangle the circular and inefficient traffic motions that exist along Broadway.
Those include having to go all the way around the downtown and City Hall to simply get to Fifth Street, and also the unsignalized intersections along Broadway that causes drivers crossing the street to have to edge out and do a lot of guess work to get over.
Ralph DeNisco of Nelson Nygaard described such changes as allowing drivers to move from Hawthorne Street to Fifth Street through a signal without having to circle City Hall.
He talked about a large bump out plaza jutting out from the Dunkin’ Donuts and City Hall to allow for more public space and a shrinking of the large street there.
He talked about making City Hall Avenue a two-way street, doing road calming measures for shared streets in front of the Central Fire Station, in front of the Apollinaire Theatre on Winnisimmet Street, in front of the Police Station on Park Street, and also along Cherry Street. Shared streets have a variety of meanings, but in this case they would be marked in a way to slow traffic, and also promote pedestrian usage.
On one plan, the Broadway spine remains mostly the same configuration, but on the other plan the lanes are reduced in width to create a separated bike path along the street.
Another part of one of the plans reverses the direction of Sixth Street near City Hall from eastbound to westbound, which proved a bit unpopular amongst the crowd.
One major change would be to add signals along Broadway for cross traffic, including at Fourth Street, Third Street, Everett Avenue and Hawthorne/Fifth Street. The existing signal at City Hall in Bellingham Square would continue to exist.
DeNisco said the plan is to upgrade the function of the intersections, many of which are failing at the moment.
“We believe we can improve your traffic flow on Broadway significantly by making these improvements to the intersections,” he said.
The plan includes a major bus hub across from City Hall in front of the memorial. Another bus hub would exist next to the Dunkin’ Donuts on Washington Avenue. That would indicate a move of the bus hub from in front of the old Bunker Hill Community College on Hawthornee Street – something many have been asking for a long time.
One thing not addressed, but discussed in depth, was whether to return the Broadway spine to a two-way street. Currently it is one way going southbound, but many are considering it a good idea to look at two-way traffic – especially for the purpose of reducing the circular and inefficient traffic patterns. However, the street has been one-way for generations, and many don’t think the busy corridor could handle the change.
That piece of the puzzle has been left for discussion and contemplation before a final report is made.
Much of the meeting, however, was devoted to the parking inventory and study.
That was less heartening, with the consultants indicating that parking inventories are stressed, particularly in the morning and evening hours – often spilling into the neighborhoods.
“What we usually see is that parking gets easier the further you get away from the center of the business district,” he said. “We didn’t see that here. That isn’t happening in Chelsea. That’s very unique and different about this area. We don’t usually see that in our studies.”
Figuring out the parking puzzle, they said, might require more access to private parking facilities, and also more clearly labeling existing parking lots and their rules. Many lots, they said, were underutilized because people didn’t know about them.
Some relieve could also be found by utilizing space under the Mystic/Tobin Bridge only a few blocks from the center – perhaps for resident parking and thereby alleviating the residential parking on Broadway and its immediate streets.
The plan is currently available to residents for review, and DeNisco said one very unique thing is that this is plan that will happen. There is money behind the drawings, and the political will to make big changes.
“This is real,” he said. “It’s not a simple planning exercise. The City Manager and City Council have put money behind this effort and want it to change. The improvements we’re going to talk about are actually going to happen. That’s a different challenge for us, because these plans have to be able to be implemented.”
The MBTA has announced additional bus service for passengers impacted by the construction on the Newburyport/Rockport Commuter Rail this summer. This new schedule is the result of collaboration with and feedback from passengers, community leaders and elected officials. Alternate weekend shuttle bus service along the Newburyport/Rockport Lines will make stops at all stations (including Chelsea, Lynn, and Swampscott) during federally mandated Positive Train Control (PTC) installation during weekends beginning July 8 through September 30. The MBTA will also provide alternate weekday shuttle bus service along the Newburyport/Rockport Lines to each station north of Salem during Beverly Drawbridge construction beginning July 17 through August 13.
•Weekend Service for July 8 through September 30
From Saturday, July 8, through Sunday, September 30, weekend Newburyport/Rockport Line Commuter Rail service will be unavailable and replaced with alternate shuttle bus service making stops at all stations (including Chelsea, Lynn, and Swampscott Stations) on the line between Boston and Newburyport as well as Boston and Rockport. Roundtrip fare on the alternate weekend shuttle bus will be $10 with Zone 3 monthly passes accepted to and from all stations. Weekend shuttle bus schedules and more information are available at HYPERLINK “http://www.mbta.com/uploadedfiles/Riding_the_T/Landing_Pages/Newburyport.Rockport%20Weekend%20Schedule%207.8%20to%209.30.pdf”mbta.com.
•Weekday Service for July 17 through August 13
From Monday, July 17, through Sunday, August 13, weekday Newburyport/Rockport Line Commuter Rail service will be unavailable north of Salem Station to allow for the Beverly Drawbridge replacement project. Bus shuttles will replace Commuter Rail service between Salem and Newburyport and Salem and Rockport, making stops at each station. Weekday shuttle bus service is free with Zone 3 monthly passes accepted at all stations north of Salem Station for the months of July and August. Weekday shuttle bus schedules and more information are available at HYPERLINK “http://www.mbta.com/uploadedfiles/Riding_the_T/Landing_Pages/Newburyport.Rockport%20Weekday%20Schedule%207.17%20to%208.13.pdf”mbta.com.
Weekday and weekend shuttle buses will include free WiFi and restroom facilities. Bicycles, including folding bikes, are prohibited on all shuttle buses during all service hours.
Parking will be free at all available station lots north of Beverly Depot Station (North Beverly, Hamilton/Wenham, Ipswich, Rowley, Newburyport, Montserrat, Beverly Farms, Manchester, West Gloucester, Gloucester, and Rockport).” Passengers should not drive to and/or park in Salem, as station parking is very constrained. Parking will be strictly enforced in downtown and neighborhood areas.
For more information on PTC installation, the Beverly Drawbridge Replacement Project, and shuttle bus service, please visit HYPERLINK “http://www.mbta.com/about_the_mbta/?id=6442458158″http://www.mbta.com/about_the_mbta/?id=6442458158.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino and Chief Leonard Albanese hotly disputed claims made by the Chelsea Firefighters Union last week that the City was unwilling to fund kevlar helmets to protect them in an active shooter situation, indicating that the Union would not have even had the ballistic vests that came in handy during the May 22 active shooter situation on Warren Avenue if they had done things their way.
Both contended they did not make comments indicating that the helmets couldn’t be funded because they would likely never be used, but instead fought back the Union’s attempts to not put ballistic vests into service on May 5, as they wanted to get collective bargain a pay raise first.
Had he and the chief not been insistent with the union, Ambrosino said the vests would have been hanging unused in the Station on May 22 when a man shot at police and firefighters on Warren Avenue.
“We did not use those words, never did,” he said on Monday. “The union did not want to deploy the vests until they had all the equipment at once (vests, goggles and kevlar helmets). The Chief’s position was that it’s better to have some protection than not to have any protection right now. We told them we wanted to deploy the vests and then we would deploy the helmets as soon as the budget is passed in July…So, we deployed the vests on May 5. If the union had its way, they wouldn’t have had vests on Warren Avenue that night. The vests would have been sitting in the station. As the chief says, that wouldn’t have been a help to anyone.”
Albanese took great exception to reports in the Boston media and in the Record based on complaints by the Union and its president, Anthony Salvucci, last week in the wake of the incident on Warren Avenue. The Union contended that it wasn’t safe to deploy things piecemeal and that they had been told the helmets would likely never be used. Salvucci suggested that the helmets be made available immediately using Free Cash, rather than after the budget is passed in July.
Albanese said he has made the department into a leader on active shooter training and equipment since coming to the City in 2016.
He said there was really no plan in place at the time, and he quickly made it a priority to get the training and equipment for the department. That priority list included following a funding plan for the safety equipment.
The vests came through a grant to the police and fire departments, with training on the vests coming in April and the vests ready for deployment in early May.
However, he said those vests were nearly put on hold by the Union due to the desire to collectively bargain a pay raise for having members use them.
“On May 4, 2017, I received an email communication from President Salvucci requesting that these bullet proof vests not be placed on the apparatus on May 5 until the union has a chance to Impact Bargain this change,” read a letter from the chief to the City Council. “Secondly, he requested that the Local receive and increase in their Hazardous Duty Pay for providing this service. Because this policy has been in effect since September 2016, and by our mission and duty as firefighters, I could not in good conscience delay the issuance of this equipment that would undoubtedly protect our firefighters should the need arise…Had I granted President Salvucci’s request, these ballistic vests would have been on the floor in my office last Monday, instead of on the bodies of our firefighters.”
Albanese said it is not a funding issue, but one of timing.
“This is not a funding issue,” he wrote. “It is a timing issue. We cannot solve every problem we face at once. The department has set a plan in place and we are following it successfully. We are researching and consulting to make sure we get the right equipment. At the same time we are addressing training needs for the various other threats we face as an All Hazards Fire Department.”
He said he is confident that the Chelsea Fire Department is a leader in responding to such an incident – and in fact they were the first department to use the training that has them protected by a SWAT team when extinguishing a major fire in an active shooter situation.
“It is undeniable that our department was ready to face the challenge of Warren Avenue,” he wrote.
Ambrosino said the helmets are in the Chief’s proposed budget, and will be ordered if the Council approves that budget this month.
Coming in more than 200 days ahead of schedule, the Washington Avenue Bridge opened to traffic on Wednesday, Sept. 14, after having been closed for 14 months.
The barriers were removed last weekend after the bridge was deemed substantially complete on Sept. 7. By Wednesday morning, the flashing ‘Bridge Closed’ signs, had been removed and traffic could once again pass through the critical east-west artery connecting Carter Street and Prattville to downtown Chelsea.
The replacement bridge was designed and constructed to the latest MassDOT Bridge Standards. It consists of two 11-foot travel lanes, a 4-foot shoulder on the east side, an 8-foot parking lane on the west side, and 9-foot sidewalks on both sides. McCourt Construction Company, the General Contractor, began construction in early 2015. The bridge, which was constructed in two stages, was closed in May 2015, and partially opened to emergency vehicles in January 2016. Construction has been substantially completed as of September 7. The bridge was initially to be closed for a period of not more than 700 days, and it was completed approximately 220 days ahead of schedule.
The bridge, which spans the existing commuter rail line and planned busway, was determined to be “functionally obsolete” during planning for the Silver Line Gateway project. The completion of the new bridge is a major milestone for the Silver Line Gateway Project. The new bridge provides clearance for the commuter rail and two planned busway lanes to pass beneath it.
The sidewalk on the west side will remain closed while final elements are being constructed.
The Silver Line Gateway will follow the existing Silver Line route in the Seaport District, before providing a new connection to the Blue Line and East Boston residents at Airport Station. In Chelsea, the Silver Line Gateway will operate in a new dedicated busway built in the former Grand Junction railroad right of way (now owned by the Commonwealth). There will be four new stations built in the busway — Eastern Avenue, Box District, Bellingham Square, and Chelsea. In addition to the Commonwealth’s purchase of the Grand Junction right of way from CSX, the Silver Line Gateway is able to leverage other recent public infrastructure investments, such as the Chelsea Street Bridge, Massport’s Coughlin Bypass Road, and Airport Station on the MBTA’s Blue Line.
A shared-use path will be incorporated into the project along the west side of the busway generally between Broadway and Eastern Avenue.
A host of community organizations and city councillors have come together with the Chelsea Police to organize a Peace Walk from the Police Station to City Hall on July 27.
“In light of recent national violent act, Chelsea residents and leaders are uniting to stand in solidarity with the Chelsea Police Department to promote a message of peace an unity in our community,” read a statement from the organizers.
The Police CommUNITY Standing Together as One peace walk will take place on July 27 at 6 p.m. in front of the Police Station. Participants will walk to City Hall, where there will be a short speaking program.
The walk has been organized by the Chelsea Black Community (CBC), the Chelsea City Council, the Chelsea Police and concerned community members.
“In light of the recent disturbing and alarming occurrences taking place across the nation involving both violence against police officers – including nine murders – as well as some controversial use of deadly force incidents by police, we as local community stakeholders felt compelled to stand together in unity and demonstrate to our community at large that we are absolutely committed to peace, tranquility and mutual trust,” said Chief Brian Kyes. “Although we are by no means a perfect community, we realize that we must continue to learn from each other each and every day to overcome any challenges that we face together. We view our culturally diverse inner city as a ‘model’ from which many communities could possibly draw from our ongoing successes to overcome any existing obstacles and/or barriers in working towards enhancing police-community relationships.”
Following the controversial police-involved shootings of two black men, one in Minnesota and another in Louisiana, protests and rioting has unfolded across the country. Also in that, time, five police officers were assassinated in Dallas on July 7, and three were assassinated in Baton Rouge last weekend. A police officer was also gunned down in Kansas City on Tuesday.
Others have been shot in incidents all over the country, from Georgia to Washington, D.C.