Greater City Providence

Traffic Tsunami?

Providence Emergency Management keeps posting this message on Facebook:


I’ve commented in the past to seek clarification, what traffic? Where? How does one prepare? Is a hundred foot wave of cars set to strike the city that day? Should I buy D batteries or will the ones I have left from Irene suffice? Bread? Milk?

How much more unhelpful could that message be? Does anyone know what horrific fate awaits us as a city on October 3rd; and does anyone have any good advice on how we can survive?

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • Also, unless there is a real chance that thousands of people may die if we don’t prepare, I find it rather insensitive to compare a traffic issue to a tsunami.

  • Tsunami is insensitive now? I could understand if they called it a Traffic Holocaust but we shouldn’t be too hypersensitive. I will agree that a Traffic “Tsunami” is vague and irresponsible, especially coming from an official source such as PEMA. How are you supposed to plan your route if you don’t know what’s going on? Way to go PEMA

  • @ed, Best. Comment. Evah!

    No, I don’t think the term is entirely verboten, but we’ve certainly had enough actually tsunamis in very recent times that it is certainly insensitive and frankly stupid and inaccurate to use the term to describe what I’m sure is an entirely survivable traffic problem.

    It sounds like someone at PEMA is trying to be cute and jump on the Carmaggedon bandwagon here. It would be much more helpful if they dropped the cuteness and just Tweeted/Facebooked what was actually happening. I can decide from their if I need to panic or just go about my life.

    And I don’t think an agency like PEMA should ever use the word “Tsunami” in a Tweet or Facebook post unless, you know, there is an actual wall of water racing toward the city which we need to get the hell out of the way of.

  • @Luke: You’re right, 6 million dead is more than the 250,000 dead from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, so “traffic holocaust” would be 5.75 million times more insensitive than “traffic tsunami.” But really, who’s counting?

    @Jef: Maybe the “Get Motivated” Seminar with “flood” the city with “motivation” or “traffic?”

  • DJ Paulie D is having a meet and greet on October 3 as well!

    I agree that tsunami is stupid, not because it is offensive but because it is kinda dumb. Although it is kind of poetic.

  • Kind of inflammatory.
    No, I guess a Tsunami would put OUT a fire.

    Besides sending a message of total disaster about to descend on us, this alert is completely uninformative as to we should do to defend ourselves. Duct tape and plastic tarps?

    I liked it better when they’d announce the impenetrable Homeland Security “color alerts.” At least they were, well, colorful.

    Tsunamis only come in one color.

  • The “Get Motivated” event is Monday. They’ve sold 25,000 tickets. It’s an all day event and they are anticipating that every available public and private parking spot in the city will be used. A very good day to take transit or to take the day off.

  • So that would be more of a “Parking Tsunami”. Or to be alliterative, a “Parking Pogrom” perhaps? “Parking Panic”? Oh! “Parking Pickle”.

    No way the City or State could ‘Get Motivated’ to plan alternate parking and shuttles for the Conventioneers I suppose.

  • “No way the City or State could ‘Get Motivated’ to plan alternate parking and shuttles for the Conventioneers I suppose.”

    – Exactly! Why can’t this be planned? Same thing goes for all major events – July 4th for example…

    Hope the parking meters are working…

  • Here’s a letter I received from my condo association (similar letter came to my office which is also Downcity):
    Good afternoon everyone,

    Our management staff attended a Downtown Security meeting this afternoon, and were notified at the meeting that the largest event in the Dunk’s history will take place this coming Monday, October 3rd. The Get Motivated Business Seminar has been sold out. They are expecting an additional 6000 cars to be in the city starting as early as 6:30 am on Monday morning. The event runs from 8am (with registration as early as 7am) and will last until 4:45 pm. They will break for lunch approximately halfway through the seminar. Therefore, the morning and evening commute is expected to be beyond awful, and restaurants are expected to be flooded during lunchtime.

    It was advised at the meeting, to get word out to all local business so that downtown employees can make arrangements to either leave for work earlier or work from home or another location on that day. All other cities in which this event has taken place have experienced major traffic issues from this event. Please pass this notice along to all employees in your office so that they can make proper commuting arrangements for this day.

    If we hear of any other information pertaining to how this event will affect the city, such as re-direction of traffic, etc. we will pass it along to you.

    Best Regards,

  • This is indeed for the “Get Motivated” event.

    Live in Kent County or south? Now is the time to use the commuter rail from TF Green. I’ve heard rumors that the train schedule might be expanded this fall as well.
    6:52a – 7:12a
    7:15a – 7:35a

    6:10p – 6:25p
    6:48p – 7:03p

    Only $2.25 each way and $6.75 to park all day.

    RIPTA is also an option, there are 50 weekday runs between the Airport and KP (Buses 8, 14, & 20).

    OK, sorry for the commercial, but anyone who knows me on here at all knows that I a mass-transit geek…

  • Possible missed opportunity

    With the Downtown security meeting letter, mass transit was missing as a suggested alternative. As mentioned by mental757 there are bus and train options from TF Green. Besides the numerous regular bus routes, there are 29 park-n-ride bus pick-up locations throughout the state, many of which offer express service. This could have been a opportunity to introduce some suburbanites who are accustomed to only driving to tryout mass transit.

    There are two days left to the workweek, so perhaps RIPTA, RIDOT, and the City could coordinate a message on the media suggesting that commuters consider using transit options.

  • From the City:

    Popular Business Mega-Seminar Will Bring Thousands to Providence on Monday, Oct. 3

    “Get Motivated” event will boost local economy; heavy traffic and parking congestion expected

    PROVIDENCE, RI – The popular “GET MOTIVATED” business mega-seminar is expected to draw an estimated 13,000-18,000 people to the Dunkin Donuts Center in downtown Providence on Monday, Oct. 3. The seminar will feature Bill Cosby, General Colin Powell, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Terry Bradshaw, Lou Holtz, Howard Putnam, Rick Belluzzo, Bob Harrison and Mary Buffett.

    “GET MOTIVATED” is a wonderful event that Providence is pleased to host. The event will provide a significant boost to the local economy, as thousands of visitors attending the seminar will spend the day eating, shopping and enjoying downtown Providence.

    Unlike most events that fill the Dunkin Donuts Center to capacity, the GET MOTIVATED seminar will take place during a business day rather than during the evening or on a weekend day. The seminar will occur Monday from 8:00AM-4:45PM, with thousands of additional cars traveling into and out of downtown Providence from all parts north, south, east and west during the peak hours of the morning and evening commute.

    Delays are expected in both directions on Route 95 and Route 195 and will have a spillover effect impacting the entire city.

    To avoid significant traffic delays experienced by other cities that have hosted this event, all who work and live in the city should plan ahead and allow for longer morning and afternoon commutes.

    Providence Public Schools will delay their start times by two hours, on the recommendation of Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare.

    Students who ride buses should plan to be at their stops two hours later than normal, and parents who drive their children to school are advised to carpool if possible, and to check ahead on traffic and plan accordingly to ensure that students arrive by the delayed start time. Afternoon bus routes may also be delayed by traffic, though most are completed before the event ends.


    • Consider using alternative transportation, public transportation, or plan to carpool with neighbors and colleagues.
    • Map out some alternative routes and look for at least two additional ways to complete your commute safely.
    • Remember to check traffic reports before heading into or out of Providence, and check for regular updates via radio and mobile phone. If available, use a GPS device with live traffic updates during your commute. Useful planning tools from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT):
  • Providence public safety officials @PEMA591 and @PvdPublicSafety will be monitoring Twitter hashtag #pvdtraffic during the GET MOTIVATED event. Twitter users can report traffic and parking issues related to the event via #pvdtraffic. For real emergencies, call 9-1-1.

    Cars seeking to park in and around downtown Providence should be expected to exceed available parking spaces by several thousand.

    Dunkin Donuts Center officials are expecting Convention Center and Mall parking to reach capacity level early in the morning. Doors are scheduled to open for GET MOTIVATED at 6:45AM and the event will begin at 8AM.

    A list of all parking lots in downtown Providence is available here. [.pdf]:

    All parking regulations will be enforced. Cars blocking roads or violating parking rules will be ticketed.

    It would have been way more helpful if PEMA had posted a link to this info a week ago rather than spending all that time on unhelpful Tweets and Facebook posts. Tsunami!!

  • Message from Providence Schools to staff:

    Providence Schools Staff:

    As you may have seen on this morning’s news, Providence is hosting a major day-long convention on Monday, October 3. The conference is a wonderful opportunity for the city to draw tourism dollars to local restaurants, shops and other businesses. It is important for residents and those who work in the City to note, though, that this seminar is expected to dramatically increase traffic and parking needs in and around downtown Providence. It is also expected to affect traffic on major highways into and out of the city, especially during morning rush hour.

    For this reason, and with the recommendation of Public Safety officials, Providence Schools will operate on a 2-hour delay on Monday, October 3. Morning Pre-K will be cancelled.

    All school staff should report to school two hours later than their normal report times. District offices will operate on normal hours. With congestion expected to be so heavy, please leave earlier than normal to allow yourself ample time to travel. Should you encounter any issues or delays, please keep managers informed.
    If you drive to work, please consider alternative transportation – RIPTA buses, carpooling, etc. – and plan for extra time. Weather on Monday is expected to be clear and dry, making it easier to walk, ride a bike or take a bus. Anything that can be done to minimize traffic on the roads during the expected peak period of 6-9 a.m. is helpful.

    City authorities, including the Office of Mayor Taveras, Providence Emergency Management, the Providence Police Department and the Providence Fire Department are working closely with convention authorities to minimize the impact on residents and commuters, and to ensure that the normal business of the city and our schools go on with minimal disruption.

    Thank you for your cooperation.

  • I’m not really thrilled about the fact that the city’s Press Release is a mini advertisement for the event, including a link to the event’s website. Come on!

  • I’m looking forward to the massive wave of smugness and schadenfreude that will wash over me as I ride my bike past all the traffic and lock up at my office building’s indoor bike rack.

    I’ll have to take a few pictures along the way.

  • Tsunami doesn’t bother me. “a large volume of” is even a second line definition in some dictionaries. Details and information are definitely lacking, though.

  • Wait… the city is actually cancelling part of the school day because of a private event? That is ridiculous. What happens if the Dunk and convention center suddenly become hotspots for these types of events with thousands of people coming into the city every couple weeks? Do we just change the school day for it?

    I think RIDOT and Public Safety should be dealing with the other traffic to allow school buses and school children to get where they need to go at the expense of the other traffic rather than vice versa.

  • Channel 10 just reported 8 minute travel time on I-95 North from I-195 to the Mass line. Pretty good for the morning commute.

  • When I was walking to work this morning, between 8am and 8:30am, I saw no traffic, it was like Victory Day. I was able to cross Atwells no problem.

    At the arch, there was a RIPTA van parked on one sidewalk, and a state police cruiser parked on the other sidewalk. At Atwells near the Hilton a police cruiser parked on the sidewalk and Staties just standing there.

    The Old Public Safety Building Memorial Parking Lot™ was not full. At Fountain Street, there was the Providence Police Mobile Command Unit parked in the crosswalk.

    At Washington and Empire there was a cop directing impossibly light traffic. At Empire and Westminster there was a cop waving traffic through the stop sign.

    At Empire and Weybosset there was a cop leaning against a private vehicle parked on the sidewalk.

    I don’t know what the traffic was like before 8am, but from my perspective, it was a good day to be a cop on detail, a bad day to be a pedestrian not wanting to be forced to walk in the road.

  • Foolishly, I did not bike this morning because I listened to the weatherman…

    However, my 7:30am sun-glared commute was very light on traffic – even at 146S ramp to 95S, much lighter than normal.

    Glad to see they were prepared for the worst, but seems like event goers slept-in.

  • It is a very good thing they delayed school, what with all the police vehicles parked on the sidewalks and all.

  • Facebook friend at the event says The Dunk is only half full (or half empty).

  • Seems like a damned if you do, damned if you don’t sort of thing from the perspective of the city. What if the convention center had been full? What if school was on time? What if regular commuters (like the head of the PVD Chamber of Commerce) had decided to drive instead of using RIPTA?

    Kids would trapped on buses, etc and we’d have our selves an October Debacle instead of an October Oops.

    It’s reasonable to think that maybe the show was only half full because ticket holders though, “eh, 95’s going to be backed up. I’ll eat the $1.95 ticket price to avoid the hastle…”

  • What we learn from this natural experiment:

    Much of AM traffic is people driving kids to school and daycare.

    Make every neighborhood school or daycare a place you want your kids to go and make sure there are safe ways for children to walk to them.

    Less traffic and pollution, healthier kids and safer streets.

  • The worst traffic day of the year is what they refer to as “Terrible Tuesday.” It is the Tuesday after labor day when all the kids go back to school. People driving their kids to school really does cause miserable traffic. The county keeps building schools out in the middle of nowhere, making it impossible for kids to walk or ride their bikes to school. A real disservice to both the community and the kids, I think.

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