By AMY PORTER
WESTFIELD – Fifteen years in the planning, the Olver Transit Pavilion formally opened its doors on Friday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and remarks from Pioneer Valley Transit Authority Administrator Mary l. MacInnes and former Congressman John Olver. Friday was also the last day on the job for MacInnes, who announced her retirement several months ago.
“This is an amazing retirement party,” MacInnes said as she opened the formal program.
In speaking about why the PVTA named the pavilion after Olver, MacInness didn’t hesitate.
“No one in the history of Congress worked harder on transportation and transportation issues than Congressman Olver,” she said.
While acknowledging that there is already a facility in Greenfield named for Olver, she said that one belongs to the Franklin Regional Transit Authority, and the PVTA wanted to do something to recognize him as well. She added that Olver helped to get most of the federal funding for the project “many, many years ago.”
MacInnes’ appreciation extended beyond Congressman Olver. She said that Westfield had been an “amazing partner for the PVTA,” and that they never had any problems working with the city.
In acknowledging designer John MacMillan, formerly of Reinhardt Associates, MacInnes had a few words for the people critical of the modern construction in the center of the historic downtown. MacInnes said there is no more historic city than Boston, which also has modern buildings interspersed with historic ones, “and they’ve done pretty well. We wanted a design that looked to the future,” MacInnes said.
“My brother Rick twenty years ago started this project,” said Mayor Brian P. Sullivan in his remarks. He acknowledged builder Eric Forish of Forish Construction, “a Westfield company that put this on the map.” He also recognized Joseph Mitchell, Westfield’s city advancement officer for his vision for the downtown.
Noting that Congressman Olver wouldn’t take credit for anything, he said “now his name is in lights. Our goal is ease of transportation in a bustling downtown,” Sullivan said.
Olver came to the podium after what he called a “negotiation” on whether he would speak at all. He said the transit pavilion was quite a long project, going back through a total of five Westfield mayors.
He said this is the fifth transit center that has been built, beginning in the 90’s with Fitchburg and Pittsfield; thirdly, the money was appropriated to Westfield, before Greenfield and Holyoke were completed. Olver admitted that “in these last four years, I began to lose faith that this would ever happen.” He said he was grateful for Mary MacInnes on her last day.
“As for the design, I think Mary is quite right it needs to be for the future,” Olver said. He said with 40,000 people, Westfield is the hub of the western part of Hampden County, and a “universal joint to distribute transportation services in the whole area. This will service you well throughout this century. The design is appropriate,” Olver added.
The terminal is totally automated, with unmanned places to buy tickets. An interactive computerized board gives the bus schedule in real time, updated minute by minute. Consumers may also video conference with customer service if they have question.
The board also has a Westfield Chamber button, with location of local businesses, bank, etc.
According to John Rickman, PVTA director of operations and planning, Westfield bus ridership fluctuates between 500-600 passengers a day.
“This facility will attract more ridership,” Rickman said, adding that the facility was built with growth and additional bus routes in mind.
The Transit station also acknowledges the proximity of the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail right down the road. There are bike storage racks around the facility and a vending machine for bike parts. There are also public restrooms in the facility.
Even though there is no one selling tickets in the pavilion, Rickman said there will be security staff on at all times while the facility is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. In addition, there are 132 camera views on the terminal. “This is a nice transition piece to the larger gas light piece Westfield is working on,” he said.
Another admirer of the facility in attendance at the grand opening was Westfield state University President Ramon S. Torrecilha. “I think it’s a very attractive building, very modern, brings a punch to the area. This is going to be terrific for our students,” Torrecilha said.
He said the university will be looking for a stronger collaboration with the PVTA, to improve the ridership between Westfield State, Holyoke Community College and Springfield Technical Community College for a growing exchange program between the institutions. “A sizable number of our students are commuters. Not every student has a car,” Torrecdilha added.
“This is outstanding. It is great to see a project that has taken so long get across the finish line. This is the first new construction in our downtown in well over a decade, and this just the beginning,” said Mitchell at the end of ceremony.