Greater City Providence

City/RIPTA seek to enhance pedestrian amenities in four commercial corridors

The City of Providence and RIPTA released a joint RFP [.pdf] this week for enhancements to pedestrian amenities in four of the city’s commercial corridors.

The City of Providence, in conjunction with the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) is seeking to hire a Consultant to assist in conducting six major tasks in order to enhance the experience of those traveling through four of the City’s major commercial corridors – Atwells Avenue and Charles, Cranston, and Smith streets. The consultant will work with the City and RIPTA to create unique, artistically designed bus shelters and other pedestrian amenities – such as landscaping, public art, trash receptacles, and bike racks – along each corridor. The new bus shelters and associated pedestrian amenities will reflect each corridor’s design and cultural heritage and will ultimately contribute to a cohesive visual identity for each of the four corridors. As both an art object and a transit amenity, the shelters will help to encourage the use of the public transit system and celebrate the unique identity of these important commercial, cultural, and historical corridors. The associated pedestrian improvements will further beautify the streetscape along each corridor. The City will consider both individual consultants and teams of consultants for this project and reserves the right to select individual consultants for each corridor

Project corridors and corresponding Neighborhood Markets areas
Project corridors and corresponding Neighborhood Markets areas

RIPTA describes their categories of bus stops:

RIPTA has categorized all existing bus stops within the metropolitan Providence area based on average daily passenger boardings, as follows:

  • Regional Transit Centers (500+ daily boardings)
  • Key Downtown Stops & Local Hubs (200-500 daily boardings)
  • High Volume Stops (100-200 daily boardings)
  • Medium Volume Stops (50-100 daily boardings)
  • Low Volume Stops (less than 50 daily boardings)

Within the four project corridors, low volume stops generally serve only one route and are identified by a RIPTA bus stop sign only. Ideally, overhead illumination is also provided at these stops. Due to limited resources and the large number of stops in this category, no further amenities or improvements are recommended for low volume stops other than lighting and a new bus stop sign. Medium volume stops will receive a basic level of amenities including a sign with bus route number and map, a shelter and seating area, and a trash can. High volume stops within the four project corridors will receive those amenities plus a current system map with schedule information, a bike rack, landscaping, and public art. There are no regional transit centers or key downtown stops along the four project corridors

And the number of each kind of stop in each corridor breaks down as such:

Study Corridor Low Volume Stops Medium Volume Stops High Volume Stops
Atwells Avenue 26 0 0
Charles Street 117 0 0
Cranston Street 46 3 0
Smith Street 30 4 3
Project Total 219 7 3

Obviously there are many more details on the RFP [.pdf]

Some thoughts. First yay, I love pedestrian amenities. The City and RIPTA have $1.2 million for this project and according to the RFP, they want stuff being installed by next August. Yay again.

What I would want the consultant and designers to be very cognizant of is not putting form over function.

Bus Shelter
Reader photo of TransArt shelter near Wayland Square

We discussed the shelter on Angell Street near Wayland Square and others. A bus shelter needs to protect the bus rider from the weather, offer them a place to sit, and give them information about the bus service to the stop while allowing people who are not waiting for the bus to safely and comfortably pass by. Some of the TransArt shelters don’t tick all those conditions off.

The same with bike racks, simple is often best. If bike racks are over designed you may end up with people wondering, ‘is that a bike rack?’ Or worse, deploying poorly functioning bike racks for the sake of art.

Also, please steer clear of clichés. The city wants the designs to reflect the heritage of the neighborhoods, but if the infrastructure installed on Atwells is all red, white, and green I truly will just die.

What kinds of pedestrian amenities would you like to see on the streets of Providence?

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.


  • Passable sidewalks, clear and well positioned crosswalks, traffic calming. You know, the easy stuff that never gets installed. Crossing at Smith and Orms or Chalkstone is scary on foot, and I planned my bike commute to avoid those streets because the cars, they will kill you.

  • Maybe I’m misunderstanding the numbers, but are there really 117 bus stops on Charles St?

  • Why can’t we just have functional and uniform stops? Why does it have to be artsy-fartsy? What will the long term maintenance effects and costs be with having individualized structures assuming they will not be built exactly the same and from the same materials?

    Also, just found out today that the USPS is seeking to close the only two downtown Post Offices (Financial Annex at Kennedy Plaza and Weybosset Hill). How will this effect the pedestrian experience when individuals will have to take more than several different busses to reach the suburban office off of Charles Street and what will the loss in foot-traffic mean for nearby businesses, banks and residents?

  • RIPTA has guidelines for materials to address the notions you list, Andy. If you clickthrough to the discussion about the Wayland stop, the designer of said lists a bunch of the requirements.

    Also, the “suburban” post office is a little less than a mile from Kennedy Plaza. It is about same distance as the distance between, say, Bryant Park and Central Park. I get that it is less convenient and I get that it is fashionable to call anything but DownCity the suburbs, but it is hardly a suburban location.

    A better complaint would be that maybe the city could enhance the pedestrian experience on Charles St. from Smith to where the Post Office is. The only reason it feels so long is that it is kind of a pedestrian desert.

  • Off subject

    Regarding post office closings, in some low populated areas around the country, post office functions–buying stamps, bringing letters and packages to be mailed, and post office boxes–have been shifted into private stores.

    Analogies would be the Citizens Bank branches in Stop & Shops or the pharmacy sections at a CVS, which are isolated from the main store.

    The same idea could be applied to urban central business districts. The postal service would eliminate the overhead of operating a facility, yet the public could have a location to obtain most of the same services, and a shop owner would get extra foot traffic and probably some additional income for operating the location.

    What Downcity retail establishment would be a good candidate for such a venue?

  • @brick – If an Empire Street office worker has a pile of certified letters to mail, do you really expect that the office worker to walk 25- to 35-minutes in each direction to get to the Charles Street post office? No one would ever hike from Bryant Park to Central Park or an equivalent distance to mail a letter. They’d take a cab or the train if it was during the middle of the workday.

  • I was arguing the intentionally inflammatory characterization of the central office as suburban.

  • add that the snow clearing around stops is missing in action , plus the inability or unwillingness to enforce parking rules especially downtown around shelters….
    understand that ripta has a hard time with store owners and residents about shelter location ie ‘we don’t want that here!
    one way out is to offer local strore owners ‘free ad space on a bus if they agree to allow–or at least not resist–a shelter……

  • I would take just a dozen or so more of those standard bus stop shelters and just place them around. It would even be great if all of the low volume bus stops had slightly larger or more differentiated signage:

    1. the bus drivers themselves don’t know where a bunch of the bus stops are, especially along Smith Hill and Charles (two routes I am most familiar with), and often end up careening to a stop a block after the bus stops as someone is flailing about.

    2. Sometimes I feel like I’m just standing on the corner selling some goods. If you know what I mean. The vehicular passerby just have no idea why I’m standing there peering into the street (because, again, if I don’t watch and wave down the bus coming around the bend, it will undoubtedly pass by), and they often stop as if they want me to cross the road, in which I have to awkwardly flag them on.

    3. If I am taking a bus outbound to a more unfamiliar destination, it is often difficult to find an inbound bus stop, because the signs are similar to many other types of signs. I am usually left wandering for blocks in either direction looking for the small RIPTA sign (on a metal pole? On a wood utility pole? every other block? Every five blocks? Pretty much where ever they randomly decide to place one.)

    I personally think the shelters would spruce up Smith Hill if done well, but Im so used to everyone ignoring SH, that at this point I’ll take anything.

  • I don’t understand why RIPTA doesn’t put the bus route number on every bus stop sign! I know some other similarly-sized bus systems do this, and I can’t tell you how much of a difference it makes for people who are new to the area or considering switching to greater use of public transit. In the Albany system, there are just colored circular stickers placed on each bus stop sign, with a number in the circle. I can’t imagine this would cost more than a few (dozen?) thousand dollars for the entire bus system! Plus, wouldn’t this help people and bus drivers identify the signs as distinct from other street signage?

  • A lot of good points above about bus shelters, especially info on Route number and/or destination, as well as the problem of lack of snow removal during the winter. I would add, a suggestion I’ve made to RIPTA, is to more involve the rank and file bus drivers in bus stop and shelter location decisions, as they know the routes but often tell me “nobody ever asks us”

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