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Voiland/My Turn: Garage a dead-end street

The unimaginative parking garage that is proposed for Greenfield would only encourage people to drive their cars into one tiny little corner of Greenfield, where the vehicle would sit while its owner worked or attended nearby court proceedings.

In a time when we are all concerned about global warming and improving our local economy, it is hard to imagine how a parking garage will contribute to improving either of these problems.

Instead of spending a lot of money to build a parking garage that will lock us into decades more of dependence on the automobile as the only viable mode of transportation in the county, it would be a better investment to spend the money on developing a functional and useful public transportation system that would serve all of the county and not just its car-driving residents. Instead of seeking grant money to build an ugly concrete box that cars will sit in all day long, we should seek grants for adding bus lines that travel from the surrounding towns of South Deerfield, Shelburne Falls, Bernardston, Leverett, Turners Falls, Montague Center, etc., to the new Olver Transportation Center. These small buses would come and go at regular intervals several times a day and have service that extends late into the night. To move the masses of people who come to Greenfield on these feeder buses for shopping, work, entertainment or business, periodic shuttle buses would travel up and down Federal and Main streets stopping at every other corner to pick up and discharge riders. These continuously operating arterial buses would go out to the Big Y plaza, Stop & Shop, along Deerfield and High streets, to Greenfield Community College, making stops at or near the major schools, churches, banks and stores.

When their errands around Greenfield were complete, residents from the outlying towns would board a bus at the OTC and head back for home not having to worry about the driving. Greenfield residents could use the shuttle to go across town on errands of all sorts that are too long a distance for walking. Who knows, these buses might even, someday, be high-tech, self-driving Google buses. A system like this would give its riders a chance to really experience more of our community and stop at the different stores, parks and attractions that they see while going about their business in town. This would create more economic opportunity for local businesses.

People who do not have cars would be able to participate more fully in the local economy by having better access to shopping and work opportunities. Hey, people who do not want cars could actually live and work in the county. Car trips would be reduced that would cut down on air pollution; wear on the roads and the need for more parking spaces downtown.

For those who think that this idea is far-fetched and impractical, it is just an update on the transportation system that existed right here in Franklin County more than 100 years ago when trains and trolley cars brought people in and out of town and street cars, horses and buggies and feet moved people around town to make the economy thrive.

Let’s get moving and do something creative and different about how we get ourselves moving!

Paul Voiland lives in Montague Center.

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