Monday, May 8, 2017

Westerly (Amtrak)

Wow, talk about a missed opportunity. Westerly has some of the most beautiful architecture I've ever seen at a small-town stop, yet the buildings have all fallen into disrepair. Indeed, the main building has what looks like an amazing interior, but it was...closed by Amtrak in October? Actually, no, this isn't a "missed opportunity" - it's a station that willingly shot itself in the leg!

Looking down the platform.
Well, the first thing I noticed about the platform is that it's entirely low-level. That's right, there's not a single mini-high platform here! Sure, the Amtrak website claims this place has a wheelchair lift, but the only one Nathan and I could find was a stationary one on the northbound side that didn't appear to be movable! THIS SEEMS PROBLEMATIC...

It looks great until you notice the trash can...
The only kind of waiting facilities on the outbound platform are two benches under a small building - the rest is all bare. Still, one can't help but admire the beautiful architecture of this building! I love all the arches and columns, and that roof looks great, and...hang on, when's the last time that trash can was emptied? WOW, that is absolutely disgusting!

This feels so weird...
Look, I'm sure the inside of this building was incredible when the station was in its prime. Now, though...well, you can see that it's not in the best condition. There's paint peeling from some of the columns, while litter occupies the corners of the room and a pungent smell fills the air.

Is that the ghost of Westerly Station at the bottom of the stairs? No, it's Nathan!
This building also houses the entrance to the "Westerly Subway," which is just an underground passage to get between the two sides of the station. Interestingly, the staircase features a wheelchair lift that travels along the railing! The only problem is that it doesn't work, and based on the rust it's acquired, it seems like it might never work...

Ehhh...
The tunnel definitely lacks the nice architecture we've been seeing in the rest of the station. I mean, this is just a bland, musty, echoey hallway that continues to harbor that awful smell from the building above. When you get to the other side, there's another staircase with an old wheelchair lift - we were able to find on the lift that it was built less than 20 years ago, in 1998.

The entrance to the other building.
The building on the northbound platform is even worse than the southbound side - this one doesn't even have room to stand! It's just the staircase, leading to a surprisingly modern-looking wooden door. But as for the rest of the building? Nope, like the other one, the architecture is beautiful, but it has certainly seen better days. Don't get me started on the gigantic pile of clothes hiding behind the door...

The northbound seating arrangement.
Alright, now the seating arrangement alongside this little building is just stupid. Look, there are a few benches and a wastebasket, but they're separated from the platform by a railing! You have to walk all the way to the end of the building in order to step onto the darn platform! Also, see that payphone sign in the background? Yeah, there's no payphone. False advertising, Westerly!

The sheltered seating area.
At least the northbound side does have a proper waiting area, though. I mean, look, there's a nice shelter, a wastebasket, some benches, and a good amount of bike racks! There's also that wheelchair lift that doesn't seem to be movable...but other than that, I think this place is pretty goo- HANG ON, IS THAT ANOTHER RAILING BLOCKING THE WAY TO THE PLATFORM?! OH, COME ON!

Wow...now that is a beautiful building. Also, there's a minibus!
Well, when you walk around to the entrance and see the building, you can definitely see how amazing the architecture here is. Just look at that! What a beauty! It's also out here where you can get the three miserable RIPTA connections: the rush-hour only 95X to Providence, the weekdays-only 204 Westerly Flex, and the Fridays-only 301 Rural Ride. Really great service, huh? Car parking is just as amazing, with 30 whole short-term spaces and no long-term spaces! I'm sure those won't fill up quickly!

Holy moly!
Okay, why the heck did they close this building? Just look at that! That is absolutely gorgeous! I absolutely love the old-timey ticket office, and they probably had a bunch of benches in here and maybe a café...look, they even left the Quik-Trak machine on! What a waste of energy!

An Acela zooming through!
Station: Westerly

Ridership: Over the course of 2016, this station got 42,560 passengers, which is about 116 people per day. Considering that this is an Amtrak stop and that a decent amount of trains skip through here, I would say that's fairly decent ridership. It could probably be improved, though, as we'll discuss later.

Pros: Well, the architecture here really is great. In its prime, Westerly must've been an impressive station! The Amtrak station also serves as the only weekend public transit to Westerly, even if using the Northeast Regional isn't the easiest or cheapest thing...

Cons: I'm sure this station has been slowly falling apart for years, but I like the idea of blaming its neglect on the building's closure. After all, without a station attendant, who's going to repaint the walls, or empty the overflowing trash can, or pick up the...disgusting clothes lying around? I still can't get over that last one. There are other quirks here that are awful, too, like the strange, seemingly immovable wheelchair lift (not to mention the other immovable wheelchair lifts on those stairs) or the lack of parking or the barebones RIPTA service.

Actually, it's that last one that brings me to my next point: getting to Westerly is awful! I can't blame this station for the RIPTA's schedule, but the Amtrak fares from here are really expensive - the "Saver" fare from Westerly to Providence (requiring advance purchase, keep in mind) is $15.00! "Saver" fare from Westerly to Boston is $27.00! Okay, Amtrak, way to encourage commuting...or leisure travel...or, like, any kind of travel to Westerly. Going back to RIPTA, the 95X may only run during rush hours, but at least it's only 2 bucks to Providence! Of course one would expect the train to be more expensive, but $15.00 is crazy - how about some sort of "Rhode Island Commuter Pass" that gives about a $10 or $11 value for Westerly to Providence trips? I think Amtrak does that kind of thing in North Carolina, but I could be wrong. Something like that could really increase ridership!

Nearby and Noteworthy: Westerly is actually a really fantastic town! It has a pretty big center that extends over the Pawcatuck River into Connecticut. There are lots of local businesses around, including two bookstores, a fantastic riverfront café, and...a PINBALL BAR?! WOW, THAT IS THE COOLEST THING! Too bad it's still really expensive to get here...

Final Verdict: 3/10
In its prime, Westerly would have been the crown jewel of small-town stations. The architecture here is just amazing, and the inside of the building is beautiful! The inside...of the closed building. Yeah, that's where the problems start. Closing that building has been a huge detriment to the station, leading to a lack of maintenance and wayyyyyy too much litter everywhere! The station isn't accessible, it's in disgusting condition, and it costs an arm and a leg to get out here. At least that architecture is good...

Latest MBTA News: Service Updates

1 comment:

  1. It's one of the least used Amtrak stations on the Northeast Corridor, and I believe the town either owns the building or is in the process of purchasing it. I think most people in the area use Kingston which has more trains that stop, or go to New London, which has Acela service. Mystic is even smaller.

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