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Convenience loses outto safety at rail station

Starts & Stops/West, a transportation column tailored to the western suburbs, runs every other Sunday. Feedback and questions on transportation topics from road to rail, planes to pedestrians, are welcome.

At the Wellesley Farms commuter rail station, convenience seems to have taken a back seat in the quest for rider safety.

Robert of Wayland recently wrote to tell us that a paved walkway on the train tracks -- which allowed riders to cross easily between the inbound platform and the outbound platform -- has been fenced off. Normally, commuters arriving at the station from Boston could use the walkway to cross to the parking lot, which is located on the inbound side.

But because of the fence, which runs between the two tracks, commuters on the outbound platform are forced to walk up a sidewalk, across a nearby bridge, and down a stairway to reach their cars.

"Now, the hike to the parking lot requires walking several hundred yards and is no longer accessible for a handicapped person arriving on the outbound train," Robert wrote. "Moreover, for all passengers . . . winter's ice and snow will make the wooden steps hazardous."

Stephen Jones, who heads the commuter rail operation for the MBTA, told us in an e-mail that the fence is a result of complaints filed by Wellesley residents, who were concerned about the potential danger of crossing the tracks.

Although they knew some commuters would probably object, the Federal Railroad Administration, the MBTA, and the commuter rail's operators decided that "the safest thing to do was to close the openings and reroute the passengers over the bridge," Jones wrote.

"This process is in effect at all new stations that have been built over the past several years and has been implemented where possible at some older stations," he added.

But Robert, for one, questions whether safety is really an issue at Wellesley Farms, estimating that "there are at least 2 miles of unobstructed visibility down the inbound track, which makes it easy to see an oncoming train long before it becomes a threat to a person using the (now closed) walkway."

The T acknowledges that the new route is not accessible to the handicapped, but also says the station did not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act even when the fence was open. Since the passage of the ADA, the T has been working through a list of "key stations," making upgrades to bring them into compliance with the law.

Wellesley Farms did not meet the criteria to be included on the initial list of 80 key stations, but the T says that concerns about the station will be included in future reviews. Meanwhile, the T notes that The Ride, a transit service for people with disabilities, is available to Wellesley residents.

Region wants mass transitCommuters in Boston's western suburbs face a litany of daily transportation headaches, and one local organization has taken steps to assign a name to the region's pain.

Last month, the 495/MetroWest Corridor Partnership, an economic development organization based in Westborough, released the results of its Transportation Nightmares Project, a roster of the region's top 10 traffic-related problems. The group did the survey with the MetroWest Daily News.

The list included several infamous interchanges, including Interstate 495 and Route 9, 495 and the Massachusetts Turnpike, and routes 126 and 135.

But the number one concern may surprise you: public transportation -- or the lack thereof.

The group's CEO, Lynn Sand, said she knew public transit was an issue for local residents, but was not expecting so many people to single it out as number one.

"You tend to buy into the fact that the suburbs are the car culture," she said.

Sand said the partnership will use the list to set priorities for the region. Although developing more public transportation is clearly a major endeavor, she noted that some solutions to local traffic problems might be more easily attained, such as retiming traffic lights or ensuring that roads are properly maintained.

To see the results of the survey, visit and click on "special events."

Changes in rail serviceIn preparation for the much-ballyhooed Democratic National Convention, the MBTA has announced a handful of changes to its commuter rail service in effect tomorrow through Thursday.

There will be one additional train out of Boston on the Franklin line, leaving South Station at 3:30 p.m. and arriving at Forge Park at 4:36 p.m.

The 2:40 p.m. train from Boston to Framingham will be extended to Worcester, making stops in Ashland, Southborough, Westborough, and Grafton, and arriving in Worcester at 4:01 p.m.

On the same line, the Boston-bound train that normally leaves Framingham at 3:45 p.m. will instead leave at 4:45 p.m.

Starts & Stops/West will answer as many inquiries as space allows. Please, no phone calls. E-mail to Please mention the relevant community or region in the subject field. The mailing address is Starts & Stops/West, 111 Speen St., Framingham 01701.

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