Buses go too fast, library policy-making too slow, councillors find
Buses running red lights and meeting space going unused in the Cambridge Main Library caught city councillors’ attention Monday, and on each the city manager was asked to report back on when and how the situations could be addressed head-on.
In the matter of the buses, that’s poor phrasing. Leland Cheung wrote in his policy order of recent unsafe, “aggressive and inconsiderate driving” by Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority employees and said Monday that he was “shocked to see video of MBTA buses run the red lights by Lechmere” posted by wbztv.com.
“It’s an all-too common experience to either be on a bus or to see a bus go through a red light,” he said. “It’s just unacceptable. I appreciate the MBTA, but they need to obey the rules of the road.”
Because pulling over a bus that has broken a traffic law would delay and punish the bus’ riders and not just the driver, City Manager Robert W. Healy and his staff was to speak with officials at the authority and find a way for traffic-enforcement officers to ticket a driver without a stop.
Lydia Rivera, a spokeswoman with the authority, did not return a message left Monday.
A half-dozen residents came forward during public comment with concerns about the library — that too many people were driving to it and parking on the street, rather than in the library’s underground parking garage, resulting in fewer spaces for residents; that funding should be found for more hours at the Main Library and branch libraries alike; and that, indeed, policies for using Main Library meeting spaces were elusive at best and had been since the building was opened to the public in November.
“I’ve been inquiring as to whether any citizen or nonprofit organizations can use the meeting rooms, and I was originally told, ‘No, we don’t have a policy, come back in January.’ I came back in January and was told come back in March,” said Mark Jacquith, a member of the East Cambridge Planning Team and Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods. “When I came back in March, they said a policy would be ready the first of July. It seems they’re not really working on a policy.”
Minka vanBeuzekom, a resident of Central Square and once and future candidate for City Council, said she’d found the library gets up to a dozen calls per day for use of the rooms that, because of a lack of library policy, can’t be fulfilled. That leaves a disappointed citizenry that “so obviously needs and deserves to get that done.”
Plans for the $90 million library renovation added at least three meeting rooms for some 4,500 square feet. So far they have been used for library functions, but not for citizen-planned meetings, and a librarian confirmed Tuesday afternoon that staff could not schedule the rooms for use. Library officials are working on the meeting room policies, the librarian said.
Councillor Ken Reeves said he’d encountered the problem as part of a group that wanted to use a 200-seat hall in the library, which was, when proposed, “intended [to have] a great deal of public use.”
Director of Libraries Susan M. Flannery told him that “for the first couple of months, the library wanted to do the programming,” Reeves recalled. “We can’t keep moving the date.”
Craig Kelley, the councillor who brought forward the library issue Monday, also noted that it’s location by Cambridge Rindge & Latin School, the city’s high school, was “promoted as a reason to build such an elaborate addition,” but the influx of students during the day has been “problematic,” and students complain they’ve been forced to sign waivers if they want to be in the library after school.
Kelley asked the city manager to look into how the library plans to work with the students and, finally, what’s to become of unused café space that was to be staffed by students from the Rindge School of Technical Arts. (The school’s executive director, Michael V. Ananis, offered a correction Tuesday: Students will bake cookies at cost, when they can, that will be sold at the cafe by Friends of the Library volunteers. That is still set to happen this spring, slowed by students’ schedules and the need to label baked goods correctly — a need pointed out by a volunteer who is also on the city’s health board.)
Flannery was out of the office and not available for comment Tuesday.