Greater City Providence

Barry Schiller: Pawtucket’s misguided decision to close the Visitor’s Center


Image from Google Streetview

Barry Schiller, a retired Rhode Island College math professor, is a long-time member of the State Planning Council’s Transportation Advisory Committee. He also was on the RIPTA Board of Directors 1995-1999.

Have you heard that Pawtucket officials are “doing away with Pawtucket’s RIPTA bus hub?” This was reported in the 11/29 Valley Breeze.

The article indicates that Pawtucket officials believe passengers hanging around at this hub near the Visitors Center are interfering with their hopes for downtown redevelopment. But their proposal is likely to result in passengers losing an indoor waiting room, with access to heat, seating, bathrooms, travel information, and security. Though buses will still stop in downtown Pawtucket and RIPTA has not yet worked out alternative service, closing this facility would likely make passengers have to stand around outdoors, even in the snow, cold and dark that comes at winter and at night. Further, “spreading the service” out among other nearby bus stops, as mentioned in the article, could make it harder to transfer. Passengers may have to wait at isolated locations which are perceived to be less safe.

It is ironic that this comes at a time when RIPTA is investing in enhancing service on the #99 Pawtucket-Providence line.

The city’s plan may make RIPTA spend already limited capital funds on new shelters, and also increase operating costs if lines are to be extended further to a new terminus. There are also questions about whether or not the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) would have to paid back for some of the funding they contributed to build the hub. Pawtucket is also seeking funding for reestablishing a commuter rail stop, but prospects for a Federal grant to do this may be hurt as the FTA may balk at funding another transit hub there.

Indicative of how Pawtucket officials feel about bus riders is the phrase “your passengers” used in a letter from the Pawtucket planner to RIPTA. Apparently they don’t see riders as Pawtucket residents or visitors to their city that use or rely on transit. And they don’t see bus service from all directions into downtown Pawtucket as a transportation advantage in an age of a weak economy and high gas prices.

As far as I know, passengers were not consulted in developing the city’s plan. To address whatever problems are occurring at the hub, surely a better solution is to have RIPTA, the city, riders, and other stakeholders work cooperatively to help keep the area clean and safe. Such a collaboration is much more in place in Kennedy Plaza in Providence.

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  • wow, that’s pretty offensive, uninspired. Has Barry sent his letter to Pawtucket planning, the VB, projo?

    If they wanted to get the idling buses away from Slater Park they could maybe do something with the Broad/Exchange intersection… It would be more direct for the 99. There might be enough space there for a shelter and the buses, along with serious traffic calming. Slater park is already a draw for that little corner of downtown, a hub could help out the NW corner.

    But Pawtucket sounds like they just want to dilute the lowly transit riders..

  • Hey Pawtucket, you really want to turn that downtown around, replace that visitors center with a parking lot!

  • Bus passengers would not be “hanging around” waiting for their transfer if the buses ran more often than every hour or two.

  • I can understand where the city is coming from, but fear their tactics are extremely problematic. Transit centers like the Pawtucket’s and Providence’s Kennedy plaza are neither or efficient nor particularly enriching urban spaces. I just wish they provided a new solution before closing their current visitors center, perhaps a new transit hub not so ideally situated near one of the city’s most scenic areas. No one wants to hear buses groaning down the street while they enjoy a beauty afternoon in a park along a river.

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