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Streetcar Shuffle

Seattle Streetcar, photo (cc) kcl_in_pdx

Pedestrian Observations: Improving the MBTA

The MBTA has a problem. And I say this coming from New York, whose standards for good regional transit aren’t all that high, but now Metro-North looks like something to look up to from the MBTA. Ridership on the system is rising, but not very quickly; the MBTA moreover has no plans to modernize. Most of what I’m going to suggest will involve commuter rail, not because it’s the most important portion of Boston’s public transportation but because it’s the part I’m most familiar with and also the part that seems most direly in need of improvements. Put another way, I’m necessarily going to talk about the MBTA as perceived from Providence, rather than from within Boston.


Fast Lane: American streetcar projects creating jobs today, livable communities and economic development tomorrow

Federal Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on streetcars:

Today, streetcars in New Orleans and Tucson are under construction. Dallas, Atlanta, and Salt Lake City are currently designing their own streetcars. Tampa extended its popular TECO Line Streetcar System, which has already created billions of dollars in economic development. And Cincinnati will break ground very soon on the Queen’s City’s unique streetcar project.

It’s simple: this streetcar revival means greater mobility and more American jobs. DOT will continue to improve public transit services by supporting these critical projects that create jobs today and livable communities and economic redevelopment tomorrow.


Streetsblog: Real-Time Bus Info Launches for All of Staten Island

The bus information can be accessed through the MTA’s BusTime website, by scanning a QR code with a smartphone, or by sending a text message with your bus stop or intersection.

RIPTA is working on a similar system.


Smart Growth America: Using historic preservation tax credits to revitalize urban communities in Rhode Island

Advocates in Rhode Island seek to reinstitute the state’s Historic Preservation Investment Tax Credit. The redevelopment success of the previous credit, and Rhode Island’s need for affordable housing and economic stimulation, means that restoring the credit will be key to help the State successfully recharge its real estate sector. Restoring the credit will also help to implement Rhode Island’s land use plan and “achieve excellence in community design” by supporting redevelopment in traditional neighborhoods and focusing growth in town centers.


The Atlantic Cities: Transit Stations May Actually Cut Down on Crime

Last month the small city of Troy, Michigan, earned some national attention when its local leaders terminated plans for a transit center several years in the making. Troy Mayor Janice Daniels – who somehow kept her job despite posting a strong anti-gay slur on Facebook, and who’s back in the news for another intolerant remark – objected to the transit center on the grounds that she didn’t want to accept $8.5 million in federal funding that would go toward its construction.

But the Tea Party mayor’s fiscal ideology wasn’t the only reason behind the decision to cancel the Troy transit center. There was also a strong fear among local residents that the 24-hour building would become a criminal hangout. One city councilman worried it would be a “place where people who don’t have another place to go hang out,” according to the Detroit News.

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11 Responses to News & Notes

  1. Tony P January 13, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

    I was going through my RIPTA tag on my blog. They’ve been ‘working’ on real time info for four years now.

  2. Peter Brassard January 13, 2012 at 11:47 pm #

    “Improving the MBTA” – Interesting statistics

    To Boston:
    Providence – 1,100
    Cranston / Warwick – 700
    South County – 170
    Pawtucket – 600
    *Woonsocket – 800

    *Assume that includes Lincoln and Cumberland

    Following Wickford, the state is planning for Kingston next.

    There was supposed to be a RIDOT study that was to analyze the impacts of stations, as a system, for the entire state. Never heard if the study was ever done.

    The article is right, infilling stations would likely increase ridership much more than line extensions. If there were more stations in the state, it would reinforce an internal Rhode Island system, as well as increasing ridership to Boston.

    The whole region would benefit.

    In suburban areas station buildings and garages are not really necessary to start. Raised platforms and a surface parking lots would be all that’s necessary. In many Connecticut, Long Island, and New Jersey suburbs that’s all they have.

  3. barry January 14, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    I agree infill stations can be a good idea. I believe RIDOT is still working on a study of other commuter rail stations in RI, one group is Kingston, East Greenwich, Cranston. The latter has an Industrial Development Commission that has been active in promoting a station to help redevelop the Wellington Ave area. My guess is the current Warwick/Wickford Jct progam has to be reasonably successful if there is to be much hope of further funding for construcing new commuter rail stations.

  4. Alon Levy January 16, 2012 at 4:54 am #

    It’s stupid that they’re making everything contingent on Warwick (meh) and Wickford Junction (awful). The numbers don’t bear South County out, to either Providence or Boston. Providence has a ton of commuters from Pawtucket, Central Falls, Cumberland, Lincoln, and Woonsocket. It also has a ton of commuters from Cranston, Warwick, and West Warwick, and from East Providence, Seekonk, Fall River, Bristol, and Barrington. South County is literally the least important source of commuters to Providence.

    They shouldn’t be spending hundreds of millions on parking garages and glorified shuttles that they call public transportation, but on a fare-integrated regional rail making multiple stops in nearby cities. If they want a big-ticket item, making it reviving the East Side Tunnel and extending a viaduct into a part of Downcity that will take it. There’s way more ridership for both RIPTA and the MBTA on the East Side and in East Providence than at Wickford Junction, sorry.

  5. Peter Brassard January 16, 2012 at 8:19 am #

    Too late for Wickford, it’s near done. The pool for commuters might be greater than what today’s numbers show, extending beyond NK to Jamestown, Exeter, Richmond, and possibly even Newport.

    Kingston, if they build it, has nearly 20,000 people in the village area, most of which are students who may not necessarily own cars. So it’s possible that Kingston could be successful.

    Having said that, infill stations within the inner metro area make the most sense. Pawtucket and East Greenwich should be priorities either because of the high number of commuters or a concentration of upper income households that would more likely utilize rail service. A new Pawtucket Station could shift the fortunes of both Pawtucket and Central Falls.

    How can the focus for Rhode Island commuter rail service be shifted towards infill stations?

  6. Alon Levy January 16, 2012 at 11:45 pm #

    Bear in mind, the numbers are weak for the entire county. I didn’t check Newport, but it’s an independent destination more than a suburb of Providence, and if you want people to ever use a train, it needs to get them to their destination rather than to a parking lot in the next county over.

    The way to shift the priority is to run frequent service in areas that are more urban than NK. Buy or lease a couple of Silverliner Vs or M8s, and run trains from South Attleboro to the airport, with stops at Pawtucket, Providence Place, Olneyville, Silver Lake, and similar places that are not getting any attention from the current exurban-focused service. Service to Woonsocket – again with a lot of intermediate stops that some people could walk to – could also be added, though that would require either electrification (possibly expensive, they should check this) or an FRA waiver to run decent DMUs (unlikely to happen given RIPTA’s smallness). If there’s money for a big project, then revive the East Side Tunnel, build a station at Thayer Street, extend it on a viaduct to Downcity, and run trains to East Providence.

  7. Andrew I January 17, 2012 at 8:03 am #

    Alon is right about everything except the tunnel. The escalator ride up from a Thayer St. Station would take as long as the bus ride from downtown does now. And longer when it is out of order.

  8. Peter Brassard January 17, 2012 at 11:20 am #

    Alon, Single-car Silverliner Vs would be a good way to start inner metro area commuter-rail service. An even cheaper alternative might to buy a few old Budd RDCs.

    It’s about 14 miles from the Mass line at South Attleboro to TF Green. Would two operable cars be enough to meet a half-hour schedule in both directions?

    If the objective is to capitalize on urban densely populated areas, there could be a dozen or so stations with what you’re proposing. Other candidate station stops could be Mineral Spring Av, Charles St, Atwells Av, Cranston St, Reservoir Av, the Zoo/Roger Williams Av, Park Av and a few extra stops along Jefferson Blvd. If there were a great number of stops, such as this, the line could work more like a subway or metro-rail line rather than commuter-rail.

    Whether commuter-rail of metro-rail, an urban passenger rail line with a large number of stops great idea. Besides money, this becomes more of a political will problem. Even if only considering six stations with no parking or station building, the costs for raised platforms, stairs, handicapped elevators, canopies, and in some instances elevated pedestrian walkways would be great. There would also be, salaries for train operators and maintenance workers.

    There are two main challenges. The first is Amtrak, a not very cooperative agency, which owns the right-of-way that was reduced from 4-track to 3-track when the electrification was done in the 1990s. The following challenge is how to shift the mindsets of the politicians and the general public to understand the benefits of building a system.

    You may be right about South County, but the resources have already been allocated. If only one additional station were to be built, the next should be Pawtucket.

  9. Jason January 17, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

    I don’t know the politics all that well, but the push to extend MBTA rather than create a true urban, rail-based transit system that makes sense for Providence is wacky. I don’t understand why someone doesn’t want to serve Olneyville, with low car ownership and already high public transit use, Pawtucket, which is desperate for some revitalization and substantial commuters into Providence, Central Falls which has awful access to Providence using public transit but is clearly a prime candidate, etc. etc.

  10. Ned Cummiskey January 17, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    As the airport get’s more flights and more passengers there will be more demand for a shuttle to downtown. This could tie into the propsed light rail line at Allens Ave.

    Hopefully there will be more rail expansion in the future with more stations. The Obama administration seems to favor rail improvements especially in the Northeast Corridor.

  11. C January 17, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

    I think it should run underground, like the metro in Santiago Chile.
    http://www.metrosantiago.cl/noticias/detalle/2cbca44843a864533ec05b321ae1f9d1

    Just copy it. Chile is a warm country, Providence is COLD! People need shelter. It’s common sense..and we are a First World county here…? or not?

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