Archive | January, 2011

News & Notes

Reclaiming the center [The Boston Globe]

Today, the principle behind revitalization efforts is to make downtowns not just shopping areas, but 24-hour neighborhoods with homes, offices, and entertainment venues where residents can shop, dine, and mix at movies and concerts. Such efforts helped transform downtown Providence, for example, into a thriving cultural center and business district with local artists, new restaurants, and popular retail stores.

Understanding the Republican Party’s Reluctance to Invest in Transit Infrastructure [The TransportPolitic]

Conservatives in Congress threaten to shut down funding for transit construction projects and investments in intercity rail. One doesn’t have to look far to see why these programs aren’t priorities for them.

If you’re so happy in your car, why are you so mad at the people walking? [The Grist]

Pedestrian advocates sometimes talk about an attitude called “windshield perspective.” That’s the point of view people develop when their ass is planted firmly in the driver’s seat|a point of view in which people on the other side of the glass are somehow always responsible for everything that happens to them.

Once you’re aware of the concept, windshield perspective turns out to be everywhere. Cops have it. Courts have it. Reporters have it. You can develop it yourself surprisingly quickly.

Rail study on track [The Barnstable Patriot]

Also on Jan. 24, the MPO approved a $300,000 study of restoring weekend rail service to the Cape from Boston and New York. Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority Administrator Tom Cahir said if it’s found feasible, the trains could run from Memorial Day to Labor Day in 2012.

When rail service between Cape Cod and New York last ran in 1996, it went via Providence. Of course since then, we have opened a train station at the Airport as well. Previous service was run by Amtrak and as of yet, we do not have an agreement with Amtrak for their trains to stop at T.F. Green. Perhaps RIDOT should be speaking with the CCRTA about that.

Shameless Plug: Please feel free to nominate us as Best Blog in the Phoenix’s Best of 2011. You could also ask your friends, your mom, and your cat to nominate us if you like.


Snow as traffic calming

Currently, due to the snow, Atwells Avenue is a good 4 to 6 or more feet narrower than usual. Yet, cars are able to park on both sides and traffic is able to flow smoothly in both directions (in most areas, some places the snow is totally out of control). Which proves my point that the road is too wide and should be narrowed. A narrower Atwells makes the traffic move more carefully, which means slower, which makes the road safer for pedestrians. The traffic moves so slow, that bikes can take the lane and comfortably move with traffic outside the door zone.

An Atwells Avenue that is consciously narrowed (not narrowed by the happenstance of snow) would also of course allow for wider sidewalks which would be attractive to the restaurants and retail, especially those that want outdoor seating. And when it inevitably snows again, a wider sidewalk is better able to act a holding area for snow moved from the roads and the sidewalks.

With traffic moving slower, the areas where the sidewalks are clear are almost pleasant, the sidewalks too are narrowed, but it is nice that the traffic is moving slower. Of course…

…there remain many places where the sidewalks aren’t clear. Even with traffic moving slower on narrowed streets, walking in the street is most certainly not pleasant.


What’s the government up to? Press Releases

Surprisingly, there’s more going on in the city this week than my lamenting the unshoveledness of our sidewalks. A couple interesting Press Releases popped up today. First, from the Mayor’s Office:

Senator Whitehouse, Mayor Taveras plan walking tour of Providence Business Districts

PROVIDENCE – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Mayor Angel Taveras will spend Monday morning visiting businesses in neighborhoods throughout the City.

Taveras and Whitehouse will take a walking tour of businesses on Hope Street, Chalkstone Avenue and Broad Street to meet directly with local business owners, discuss the challenges and opportunities they face, and hear suggestions on new policies and programs to support small businesses in Providence.

WHO: U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras
WHAT: Tour of neighborhood businesses
WHEN: Monday, January 31, 2011


  • 9:15 -10AM Hope Street tour led by Nanda Head of Nanda Interiors, and Asher Schofield of Frog and Toad
  • 10- 10:45AM Chalkstone Avenue tour led by Lisa Mattiello of Pranzi Catering.
  • 10:45 – 12PM Broad Street tour led by Marilyn Cepeda of Quisqueya in Action.

Nice to see the Senator and the Mayor working together and being proactive about the small business climate in the city. If you are a business owner in one of those business districts, get your questions and concerns ready.

And out of the General Assembly comes this:

Providence Senate delegation introduces bill to guide land use for reclaimed I-195 area

STATE HOUSE – The seven members of the Providence Senate delegation have introduced legislation to guide the sale, transfer and conveyance of land becoming available for development in the city as a result of the relocation of I-195.

The goal of the legislation, say its sponsors, is to ensure that the reclaimed land is used primarily to support the growth of a knowledge-based economy, due to its direct proximity to universities, hospitals and medical schools.

Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, Providence, North Providence), the prime sponsor of the bill, said that “the legislation balances the needs of the various stakeholders in the land reuse process in a way that helps to create jobs and produce new tax revenues, while growing a knowledge-based economy that will be beneficial to the City of Providence and the entire state.” Among those stakeholders, he said, are academic, medical, research and development facilities as well as hotels and/or conference centers and other commercial and residential development.

The legislation would repeal the “I-195 Redevelopment Act of 2002,” which was intended to plan for the future disposition of the surplus land, and replace it with language that ensures the eventual use of the property in a way that is most advantageous to the public interest. The legislation gives authority for the disposition of the reclaimed land to the Director of the Department of Transportation, with the approval of the State Properties Committee.

In all, more than 277,000 square feet of land – about 6.4 acres – is contained in the parcel that is being cleared with the demolition of the old I-195, as work continues to complete the relocation of the highway – the I-Way – to the south.

In addition to delineating the specific area that is becoming available, the legislation establishes a conveyance process that is fully transparent; allows for title and survey adjustments that enhance project design plans as well as providing for the location/relocation of city streets, utility corridors, easement and rights of way, and provides a payment mechanism for the City of Providence should a non-profit institution buy or lease portions of the land and fail to reach an agreement for payments in lieu of taxes.

I’m not sure how I feel about the responsibility for the dispotion of the land lying with the DOT. But I’m also not sure that the City currently has the resources to handle this themselves, the City has a lot on its plate. What do you think?


Robert Billington: Bringing the Blackstone Valley Bikeway to its completion

Photo (cc) cho_kettie

The following is by Robert Billington, Ed.D, President of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council.

January 20, 2011

Let’s face it; Rhode Island’s bikeways bring lots of enjoyment to our residents. From South County to the Blackstone Valley, these paths connect our neighborhoods, improve our economy and draw visitors to explore our communities. They are safe, enjoyable and provide a stress-free place to relax and exercise. Everyone who experiences them wants to see not only more paths but improved connectivity between paths. We have the opportunity to do this.

While there are other bike paths in the state, what makes the Blackstone River bikeway special is the industrious American story it tells. Over 30 years ago, planning began on the Blackstone River bikeway — a bold idea for its time. Restoring dirty land along the oldest polluted river in the hemisphere, the river that launched America to super-power status, took great imagination, and guts. Ten years ago, the first few miles of the bikeway opened in Lincoln. Now with 11 miles of the Bikeway constructed, accessibility to the Blackstone River and Canal is now easy and enjoyable for fishing, canoeing and cross-country skiing. Our state has successfully transformed land that was once a dump to land that is transforming people and reconnecting them to nature.

While we have made considerable progress, we are not done. The completed section of the bikeway passes along the Blackstone River through Cumberland, Lincoln and Woonsocket. As wonderful as the completed section is, a significant amount of work has to be done in order to connect the Blackstone Valley bikeway to both the East Bay bike path and to the Massachusetts border. Despite the Rhode Island Department of Transportation and Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s work to plan and construct the bikeway, its completion is elusive. The reason is funding.

We have worked with Rhode Island Department of Transportation officials to determine a completion date for the Bikeway and the amount of funding necessary. As of right now, it is projected that completion could take place in seven years if we continue to work hard and as long as the $31 million needed for construction is secured. To make the completion of the Blackstone Bikeway by 2017 a reality, residents, governmental leaders, community groups and organizations need to take responsibility to find the funds to complete the Blackstone Bikeway.

To date, we have 11 of the less-expensive miles of the Bikeway completed. Additionally, we have $1 million of the $31 million needed to fund the more-expensive miles ahead. We must not wait and assume that someone else will step forward and secure the funding to complete the rest of the Bikeway. We have done this for too long. It is time to stay focused and bring the project to full completion. While cutting through the dense riverfront of Central Falls, Pawtucket, East Providence, Providence, Woonsocket and North Smithfield is going to be difficult, the completion of the bikeway is within our grasp. We need to urge its completion to every local, state and federal official asking them to help us find the construction funds to build. This is a call to action to get involved and continue to remind our officials to push for the completion of the Blackstone Bikeway by 2017.

Even with the State’s growing budget deficit, we must not waiver from completing the Blackstone Bikeway. Our state has many priorities for recreational spending and we realize that the Blackstone River Bikeway is just one of them. However, this one has been on the agenda for over three decades. It is time that the completion is moved to the top of the list. Don’t think of the bikeway as simply being a place of recreation. With gas prices steadily increasing, it provides Rhode Islanders with a way to bike to work, shop for groceries and travel. The Blackstone River Bikeway is quickly becoming the new Main Street in the Blackstone Valley. The economic, environmental and health benefits from using the Bikeway cannot be overstated.

Residents, businesses, federal, state, and local officials, and community groups have to work to complete the Blackstone Valley Bikeway. It is time for the Blackstone Valley Bikeway to be completed. 2017 has to be the date! Push for progress:

Robert Billington, Ed.D, President
Blackstone Valley Tourism Council


Watch season 2 premiere of “Brick City”

Brick City” is the Peabody Award winning Sundance Channel series which follows Newark, NJ Mayor, Cory Booker. The series combines a reality style tailing of the mayor at work with citizens of the city and others to tell a compelling story of Newark. This is not a slick media piece released by the city as a marketing tool, the series tells the real story of Newark, and it is often not pretty.

The second season premieres Sunday evening on the Sundance Channel, Huffington Post is hosting the first episode on their site now, which is embedded below.

You may have heard that Cory Booker has been all over the Twitter regarding his city’s epic snowfall this winter. I follow him, the guy won’t quit. Here’s video from the New Jersey Star Ledger letting you know, that you should indeed believe the hype.

I’m all about setting up a playdate for Cory and Angel.


Jack Templin nominated for EDC Board

Photo of Jack Templin by bjepson on flickr

My Twittersphere and Facebooksphere have been lit up with talk about Jack Templin being nominated to the RI Economic Development Commission Board by Governor Chafee and with good reason. Aside from being a friend of mine, a great mind in the Rhode Island tech sector, and an all around good guy, Jack is a strong champion of healthy cities and the correlation between a vibrant city and a strong economy.

Jack famously (or maybe that is infamously) coined the term “Made, Paid, & Laid” as a formula for preventing the brain drain of our best and brightest university students. The “Laid” part is the part we are most interested in here (of course). Meaning, that in order to retain young people, we need to have a city that is vibrant, with plenty of social and entertainment opportunities. A city where a young person is not bored and yes, can find a mate, or two, or whatever, that’s personal…

And in order to maximize their time enjoying our vibrant city, the city needs things like robust transit, walkable streets, and dense residential, shopping, work, and entertainment districts.

So while the tech sector is excited, us urbanists should be too. I’m sure Jack will be a strong voice for smart growth and urbanism on the EDC Board. Congratulations Jack and thank you to Governor Chafee for making such a great appointment.


Obviously, someone is trying to make me angry

As I was walking home I was pretty amazed that some sidewalks were actually dry, amazing! I ran into some problems in the LaSalle Square area and at the Atwells Bridge, where there was no way to get from the sidewalk into the street to cross the street.

Those challenges were mostly forgotten as I was quickly making my way all the way across Federal Hill on Atwells sidewalks clear of snow. Then I came upon this mess.

Obviously, this was shoveled, and for the first time this season, amazing. Until some snowplow came along and pushed all the snow back into the area that had been cleared.

While the Mayor admonishes us not to shovel snow from sidewalks into the street…

Pls remember to clear your sidewalks. I know there is a lot of snow, but make every effort to not put snow you remove back into the roadway.less than a minute ago via web

…we have snowplows all over the city pushing snow back onto the sidewalks. If there were a 3 foot pile of snow across the Atwells roadway, how many people do you think would be fired? Snow from the road pushed onto the sidewalk, not such a big deal it would seem.


Snowblogging: Miracle Edition

Snow - January 27, 2011

THAT my friends is a shoveled sidewalk on the Atwells Avenue Bridge over Route 95. Yes, it is true.

But wait, don’t think I’m gonna be all sunshine and moonbeams. A for effort to get this thing cleared so soon after last night’s snowicane, but I have complaints.

Every winter, at some point this sidewalk does get cleared. But this is never cleared:

Snow - January 27, 2011

The traffic island on the Downcity side. If I walk all the way over the bridge, the crosswalk drops me on this traffic island, which now has about 3 feet of snow on it. Even on the miraculous day when the bridge sidewalk is cleared, this never is, so it is into the street with me.

But there’s some equal opportunity non-snow clearing at work this morning:

Snow - January 27, 2011

The right turn turbo lane from Atwells to the 95 ramp is not touched at all, which was surprising to see. Guess what, the traffic works just fine with out it. Drivers pull up to the light, turn on their directional, and make a right. I say let’s just get rid of that stupid turbo lane, I say we ban all turbo lanes.

Let’s take a look at the rest of my commute.

Continue Reading →


Rhode Island Bikeways Map

Speaking of bike paths…

This post may not actually work, first time I’ve tried to host a .kmz file to embed a map on the site, so if nothing shows up on this map, well then, nevermind.

A reader forwarded me a .kmz file he created of the Rhode Island bike network (map key over there on the right). You can download the file here. If the Google Maps embed below does not work, you can download the .kmz file and open it with Google Earth to view the map.

View Larger Map


Connecting the Blackstone and East Bay bike paths

Photo (cc) spablab

Last month Matthew wrote about the proposed on-road connection between the Blackstone and East Bay bike paths. Now we have the draft plan from the city of Pawtucket detailing part of that connection.

City of Pawtucket Blackstone Valley Bike Stripe Project [.pdf]

There are some caveats right now to these plans. The section between Pitman Street in Providence and the Town Landing in Pawtucket is not included in this document, that is a separate RIDOT funded project. The current plan shows the route running along Taft and Pleasant Streets in Pawtucket which are both closed (or will be closed at various dates in the future) due to the Pawtucket River Bridge replacement. The engineer is working on identifying a temporary route which will be open throughout the bridge construction.

The current plan in Providence is to run Pitman to Gano Street with Sharrows in the road. While state law allows for bikes to use any non-expressway street, and cars should make way for bikes, the planners are aware that the traffic volume on Gano is heavy and fast. Routing the bikeway along Gano may deter some less experienced users from traveling this way. There is consideration of putting the Sharrows on Ives Street instead.

The Pawtucket Citizens Development Corporation and the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council are working on this project, their current funding is limited. They are open to suggestions (which you may post here in the comments) but remember, thier budget is limited.


Announcement from the Mayor’s Office regarding snow removal

Announcement from the Mayor’s Office regarding snow removal:

Public Service Announcement: Snow-Covered Sidewalks Pose Signficant Safety Hazard

Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Providence community urged to follow City Ordinance on Snow Removal

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for a potent, fast-moving storm forecast to affect Providence this afternoon and tomorrow morning. The storm is expected to cause 6 to 10 inches of heavy, wet snowfall. Snow removal on City sidewalks continues to be a challenge for our community.

With additional accumulations expected this week, it is important that everyone take responsibility for making sure sidewalks are safe and passable. This is especially important to ensure the safety of children who walk to school, and the many pedestrians who regularly walk in Providence.

Providence City Ordinance requires that property owners must shovel sidewalks within eight hours after snow stops falling. The fine for failing to shovel the sidewalks ranges from $25 to $500.

Snow-free sidewalks are more than a convenience; they are a matter of public safety. Property owners are urged to shovel sidewalks as soon as possible. For fire safety purposes, property owners should not rebury fire hydrants after they have been dug out.

Residents concerned about unsafe sidewalks should call the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services at 401-421-2489, or report their concerns directly via the City of Providence’s website, at ProvConnex. ProvConnex is the City’s online dashboard that provides residents with access to dozens of City services.


Skating Center February Events

While the Skating Center closed at 2pm to clear snow, they do have some great events coming up next month.

Check out our spectacular events!

Saturday, February 12th, 5-8pm – Hearts + Scars: An Evening with Providence Roller Derby – Hot chocolate, treats, games and contests with the derby girls on ice skates!

Plus, La Strada Wood Fired Pizza straight out of their mobile wood fired pizza oven to you!

Sunday, February 13th 5-8pm – FUNny Valentine Weekend continues! Bring a CD and dedicate a song to your sweetheart! La Strada Wood Fired Pizza – hot pies with fresh local ingredients for you at the rink!

Monday, February 14th 5:30-7pm – PROVIDENCE BRUINS scrimmage! Watch the Providence Bruins practice for an upcoming outdoor game, and then skate with some players after!

Sunday, February 20th, 10am-1pm – To celebrate Hockey Weekend Across America, Lite Rock 105 will host youth hockey clinics with hockey heroes from all over Rhode Island, as well the chance for youth players from all over the state to compete in different events like a fastest skater competition, or a mini “Winter Classic” Mite tournament for prizes! So lace up your skates, and come help celebrate Youth Hockey in Rhode Island with this free, family-friendly event hosted by Lite Rock 105’s Heather Gersten and Tony Bristol!


Streetfilms: Chicago bus tracker

With RIPTA currently working on a bus tracking system of their own, and with RISD having a beautiful campus video display information system, I’m seeing a partnership possibility.

The system here in Chicago allows businesses to customize their display for buses passing by them and roll it out on their own equipment, no cost to the transit agency. The businesses can than add their own advertisement to the monitor, specials, upcoming events, etc. This is a great way to address the “well, everyone doesn’t have smartphones issue.” The open information is great for app developers, but this creates a way to push the information out to people who do not have access to smart phones.



Regarding “Little Red School and the Big Bad Wolf”

The below is a letter to the Editor of the Providence Journal in response to David Brussat’s editorial “Little Red School and the Big Bad Wolf.” As of this date, the ProJo has not printed the letter.

In David Brussat’s “Little Red School and the Big Bad Wolf,” 1/13/2011, he portrays a disturbing instance of demolition by neglect of Federal Hill’s historic Grove Street School. The owner of the Grove Street School, Representative Michael Tarro, has been a blatantly irresponsible building owner defying city law all the while as an Assistant City Solicitor of Providence.

The Taveras administration defines, the city solicitor is responsible for “implementing all legal policies and procedures of the city to ensure that municipal services and activities are conducted in accordance with city policy and ordinance” as quoted in the Providence Journal in “Mayor appoints Padwa to city solicitor post,” 1/15/2011.

It is unconscionable that Michael Tarro continues to hold a position of enforcing city laws he himself willfully chooses to disobey, despite losing every battle in court over the past four years. As a former resident of Providence who could see the Grove Street School, a mere city lot away, from my own home, I am appalled that this issue is still not resolved and that the building continues to be open to the harsh elements.

Mayor Taveras, please secure this property to prevent further deterioration of a viable piece of Providence’s history, put a lien on the building for the cost of such a task, and get Michael Tarro off the city payroll.

J. E. Cole


Community Works Rhode Island to renovate Broadway’s historic “Wedding Cake House”

Community Works Rhode Island has acquired a significant historic residence at 514 Broadway, to be renovated as five affordable condominium units.

January 24, 2011, Providence, RI – Community Works Rhode Island (CWRI) is pleased to announce the acquisition of the architecturally significant building at 514 Broadway in Providence, RI. CWRI will renovate this neglected and foreclosed property into five condominium units that will be set at a price that is affordable to income qualified buyers.

Carrie Marsh, Executive Director of CWRI said “CWRI is thrilled with the opportunity to acquire 514 Broadway, a significant property which retains its beauty, dignity and grace despite decades of neglect. It is a building that captures the interest of many people who wonder at its past and envision its potential. The federal and city funding allocated to this project will allow CWRI to save this foreclosed property and renovate it into bright, beautiful and energy-efficient living spaces, to be sold to homeowners at an affordable level. This project is a key piece of the ongoing transformation of Broadway as a vital main street of the West Side neighborhood.”

The property is believed to have been originally built in 1857, in a very elaborate Italianate Style. The house is often referred to colloquially as the “Wedding Cake House” with its “gingerbread” style of architectural detail. It is graced with a mansard roof, oversized “sunburst” gables, and an ornate tower that provides sweeping views of the city. This building is located in the Broadway Local Historic District, as well as the Broadway-Armory National Register District. CWRI will work with the Providence Revolving Fund as its consultant on the historic preservation.

The property has been in a state of neglect and abandonment for several decades, and was recently foreclosed on. CWRI is grateful to Chace Ruttenberg & Freedman, as well as the Law Offices of Ronald C. Markoff, for legal assistance in acquiring this significant property.

Clark Schoettle, Executive Director of the Providence Revolving Fund said “This is one of the most important buildings in the Broadway-Armory National Register District and it has been seriously threatened for decades by deterioration. It is wonderful that Community Works has purchased the building and will save it from the wrecking ball. This is a difficult project which Community Works is well equipped to handle, given its past experience with similar properties.”

Continue Reading →


News & Notes

Street Science: All Eyes on the Street [Next American City]

The effort will mark Boston’s entry into the National Complete Streets Coalition, a national group dedicated to making city streets more accessible across America, and is strongly supported by the mayor. “Mayor Menino,” Ms. Zehngebot noted, “is behind this all the way and understands that the car is no longer king.” The Complete Streets Initiative, according to the group’s brochure, “will improve the quality of life in Boston by creating streets that are both great public spaces and efficient and sustainable transportation networks. The city is committed to designing streets that are: Multimodal: Safe, comfortable, and accessible to all users; Green: Reduce energy use, sustainable, and low-maintenance; Smart: Efficient and maximize technological advances.”

The Incrementalists [Metropolis]

New plans to modernize our aging rail intrastrcture
are modest, in the extreme.

Streetscape-draining front parking lots may soon be out (Washington, DC) [Greater Greater Washington]

New developments that put their parking in front significantly diminish the pedestrian environment. They also make it less appealing for other, adjacent projects to address the street, creating a vicious cycle away from an active streetscape, while new buildings with their parking in the rear start a cycle in the opposite, positive direction.

Connecticut highway tolls could raise $600 million annually [Mansfield Today]

In a recent published statement, Rep. Guerrera says, “You put up border tolls for $5 a trip, you’re talking $600 million a year in revenue. That’s $18 billion over 30 years. You can’t argue with that.”

The proposal also calls for earmarking these funds for repairing highways and bridges and other transportation incentives, and not putting them into the general budget.

“We know we have more than $3 billion in infrastructure needs in this state, just to repair what we have,” Rep. Guerrera says.