The newest transportation hub in western Massachusetts is drawing rave reviews from people using it for the first time today. Springfield’s Union Station reopened after 44 years following a $95 million restoration.
The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority Monday shifted the hub of its Springfield operations to Union Station with 19 scheduled bus routes carrying about 6,000 passengers a day.
"So far, everything has been very smooth," said PVTA Administrator Sandra Sheehan on Monday morning as she watched buses and passengers come and go from the 17 outdoor bus bays the transit agency uses at Union Station.
She said practice runs with empty buses Sunday helped smooth the switchover from the old Main Street bus terminal.
"The drivers, the supervisors, operations, it is all hands on deck and the staff has been wonderful,"said Sheehan.
At Union Station, PVTA passengers have a spacious air conditioned waiting room. There is a large customer service center and automated machines that dispense fare passes. The outdoor bus bays have electronic signs with real-time arrival and departure information. Shelters at the bus bays will be heated in the winter.
Sheehan said the new transportation center will make PVTA service more efficient and provide better customer service.
We have assigned gates, or berths, for each of the routes, and that makes scheduling easier and passengers have a shorter distance to walk to transfer," Sheehan explained. " There is more space for our passengers and you can also load and unload bikes here which you could not do at the ( Main Street) terminal."
Reaction from PVTA passenger Clarisa Ortiz was positive.
"I am amazed and impressed," said Ortiz. " I just love it."
John Kapola was at Union Station to take a bus to a job interview.
"This is way overdue, Springfield is way overdue. This will make it boom," said Kapola.
With limited train service to Springfield, the PVTA is the major transportation tenant at Union Station. Peter Pan Bus Lines and Greyhound are expected to begin service out of the station next month.
Also, some retail tenants won’t open until later according to Springfield Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy.
"I would say we will be fully operational in terms of inter-city ( bus service) and all the retail by the end of July, beginning of August," said Kennedy.
Not everyone who visited Union Station Monday was there to take a trip. Richard Mills of Springfield just came to take a look.
"I had to come down and see," said Mills. " This is very impressive. This is great, great for the city."
Dignitaries including Congressman Richard Neal, Gov. Charlie Baker, former Gov. Deval Patrick and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno celebrated the reopening of Union Station at a black tie gala Saturday night.
Neal, who was the driving force behind the station’s restoration and redevelopment, hosted a public open house Sunday afternoon.