On Tuesday, May 28, the Council held a special meeting to hear a presentation by John Tocco, executive director Of Government Affairs and Community Relations at Encore Boston Harbor, who laid out the resort casino’s transportation plan for opening weekend and beyond.
“It’s a pleasure for me personally to be a part of such a wonderful opportunity for thousands of people,” said Tocco. “To see it happening there today, to see 1,600 people from the surrounding towns working there already has been an amazing experience. This is what we set out to do seven years ago.”
His presentation touched on three key areas: transportation, the grand opening, and public relations/marketing.
Tocco detailed the number of transportation options that Encore is offering to bring people to and from its site. These include parking options for cars as well as bikes, ride services such as limousines and taxis/rideshares, a water shuttle and various bus options.
Encore has a fleet of four water taxis, which will connect the casino to Boston’s Seaport and Financial District for $7 per ride. Councilors had originally expressed concern about traffic backups caused by the frequent lifting of the Alford Street Bridge. While it has not yet released its water taxi schedule, Encore’s Chief Communications Officer Michael Weaver said in an interview with Independent that its water taxis are small enough to pass under the bridge without having to lift it.
In addition to the MBTA bus routes, Encore is presenting a number of its own buses. The free Encore Shuttle will connect the casino to Malden and Wellington Stations. The free Encore Neighborhood Runner will snake through Rivergreen, City Hall and Chelsea’s Mystic Mall. The Encore Premium Motor Coach will offer a $7 ride to free parking options in MA and NH. There will also be a shuttle exclusively for Encore employees.
“Our objective is to keep as many people out of their vehicles as possible,” said Tocco. “The MBTA is critical for our success.”
The presentation identified a number of different lots where out-of-town visitors can park their vehicles to make use of the different transportation options to the casino: Wellington Station, Station Landing, Rivergreen, Malden Station, Jackson Garage, Malden Center, Wonderland Station and Lower Broadway.
Tocco dispelled any rumors of a delayed opening, stating that the resort was on schedule to open on its original projected date of June 23.
“Our operations team is working around the clock making sure everything is put together,” he said. “It’s a testament to our team to get this monumental task up and running.”
As part of its grand opening plan, Tocco also noted the bike and pedestrian connection that goes under the MBTA tracks and over to the Gateway Mall site by Costco, adding that the idea is to “keep as many people off of Broadway and out of neighborhoods.”
Opening weekend will see an increased police detail comprised of officers from the Everett, Boston and Medford Police Departments; State Police, MBTA Transit Police; the US Coast Guard; the Police Marine Units of the Everett, Boston and State Police; and the Boston Department of Public Works. Moving beyond opening weekend, law enforcement presence will be reassessed as needed.
•Public Relations and Marketing
Encore hired a public relations agency to enhance public awareness about its transportation options, its dedication to minimizing traffic and its commitment to improving infrastructure.
Encore’s marketing and communications team also hopes to leverage social media and local radio stations to provide real-time transportation updates to the public and to field questions from visitors. Its website will allow visitors to view transportation schedules and to book trips on its Premium Motor Coach. Local and regional wayfinding signage will direct drivers to Encore with highway signs along routes 16, 90 and 93, and street signs in Everett and East Somerville.
Overall, Councilors expressed cautious optimism regarding Encore’s transportation plan.
“I think it’s going to be a great project. I can’t wait to see it,” said Councilor John McKinnon. “But as a member of this board, we need to make sure it’s going to go right for the host community. We don’t want to be waiting years to get
“No matter how much planning you’ve done, we’re still going to have issues the first couple of months,” said Councilwoman Rosa DiFlorio. “Everett needs to expect this. After two or three months, we correct the issues, but we don’t have a crystal ball.”
“We know people aren’t going to jump on these buses the first day. The intent is to educate people to do that,” said Councilor Peter Napolitano. “The opening day command team will meet to assess what works and what doesn’t work.”
Councilor Wayne Matewsky proposed his idea of a dedicated suggestion hotline managed by Encore where residents can share about what is and isn’t working in their communities. The idea is to reduce the number of calls being sent directly to Councilors. Encore currently has a community inquiry line, but it is not exclusively for complaints.
“I would like to have it installed before you open and advertised to the citizenry of this community,” he said. “We’re on the same page, we want a great city. But I don’t want people calling me on a daily basis if they have an issue regarding Encore.”
Encore put together its transportation plan in consultation with various public and government entities: the police departments of Everett, Boston, Chelsea, Malden, Medford and Somerville; State Police; US Coast Guard; the Police Marine Units of Everett, Boston and Massachusetts; the Transportation Departments of Everett and Boston; MassDOT Highway Division; MBTA Operations and Planning; Boston Public Works; Massport and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
“We’ve been working as a team on this since February,” said James Folk, executive director of Transportation at Encore Boston Harbor. “Every agency understands this is for the whole community and the state and we will work together as a team.”
The transportation plan is part of Encore’s master plan, which had previously been submitted in the form of a 394-page document to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. It is currently posted on their website for public view.