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Free rides from Wickford Junction

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Commuter rail train at Wickford Junction. Photo from RIDOT.

RIDOT annouces “Wickford Wintertime Wednesdays.” Six Wednesdays from January 23, 2013 to February 27, 2013 RIDOT will provide free roundtrip commuter rail fares from Wickford Junction Station to Providence as well as free parking at the Wickford Junction Garage. This program is to encourage commuters to try the commuter rail service which started last April.

When the morning radio or television station is giving the bad news about slow traffic on Route 4 and I-95 because of snowy conditions, many South County commuters won’t be concerned because they take commuter rail to work in Providence. Those who are thinking about joining them in the hassle-free way to work this winter now have a chance to try it for free.

As an invitation to try the train service from Wickford Junction Station in North Kingstown, Governor Lincoln D. Chafee and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) are announcing “Wickford Wintertime Wednesdays” for six weeks from January 23, 2013, to February 27, 2013. Each Wednesday during this promotion, commuters will receive validated parking at the station and a round-trip ticket for travel to Providence Station from Wickford.

“The expansion of commuter rail in Rhode Island is a key component in attracting business to our great state while providing existing businesses and employees a vital link to get to work,” Governor Lincoln D. Chafee said. “We hope people take advantage of this promotion and, once they see how easy and convenient it is, consider making commuter rail part of their daily routine.”

The free fares will be offered each Wednesday during the promotional period until 3 p.m. Commuter rail service, provided by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, services features 20 stops per day at Wickford Junction Monday through Friday, with connecting service at T.F. Green Airport. The normal roundtrip fare from Wickford to Providence is $6.50 and parking at the station’s garage costs $4 daily. All fare and schedule information is available on RIDOT’s website at www.dot.ri.gov.

“For those uncomfortable driving on congested highways at rush hour, especially during snowy conditions, commuter rail is a perfect way to get where you need to go, and often at less cost than driving and parking in Providence,” RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis said. “We have seen ridership grow at both T.F. Green and Wickford Junction stations and expect that more and more commuters will consider taking the train to work.”

Commuters interested in participating in Wickford Wintertime Wednesdays should visit the Wickford Junction website at www.wickfordjunction.com to download a registration form. Bring the form and your parking ticket after entering the garage to the registration table located on the second floor waiting area (platform level) to receive your free roundtrip ticket and validated parking. Those who are dropped off at the station, or who walk or ride their bike to Wickford Junction can also receive the free roundtrip fare to Providence.

The Wickford Junction Train Station and Garage was designed and built through a public/private partnership with RIDOT and the developers of the Wickford Junction shopping center. Centrally located on Route 102 in North Kingstown, the Station provides easy on-and-off access to Route 4.

The station boasts many features and amenities to make commuting via MBTA train affordable, enjoyable and hassle-free. Some of the features include a 1,100-space parking garage; an 848-foot platform with seating and covered areas to protect travelers in inclement weather; heated restrooms and indoor waiting area with seating; an in-station coffee and snack shop; charging stations for electric and hybrid vehicles; and covered bicycle storage. All MBTA trains also offer free wireless internet service.

Wickford Wintertime Wednesdays are funded by RIDOT through partnerships with Wickford Junction, MBTA and the R.I. Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) and its Commuter Resource R.I. program.


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16 Responses to Free rides from Wickford Junction

  1. Ryan January 11, 2013 at 9:04 pm #

    Oh… oh dear.

    I can’t possibly the only one who sees this as a bad sign – an indicator that the low performance of Wickford Junction is, in fact, too low. Stay tuned for next month’s article, “Free rides program taken advantage of by almost nobody.”

    Of course, nobody over at RIDOT can manage to rub two brain cells together and figure out that maybe sending the 66 (and its brand new express-route 65 spinoff) to Wickford Junction on all of its runs, like it does the park and ride half a mile away, would go a long way towards patching one of the biggest problems with Wickford Junction, that being, it’s a dead end with nowhere to go (and nothing to do) once you get off the train.

    It’s a great station as far as park and rides are concerned – but it fails as a terminus.

    Oh, and by the way, just as an FYI to anyone who would be swayed by the free parking – parking at Kingston station is free all day, every day, no gimmicks required. Something to think about as Amtrak Regional Train #66 blows by the nominally “express” train at 110+ mph on Wednesday morning.

  2. Peter Brassard January 12, 2013 at 3:33 am #

    The age-old car culture myth—all infrastructure is supposed to be free.

    Though they are highly developed commuter railroads, most Metro-North and LIRR stations charge for parking. I believe that people have to pay for parking in New London and at Route 128. Do they charge for parking at other Shoreline East or MBTA stations?

    That would be some subsidy for the state to basically pay $25,000 for your personal parking spot at Wickford Junction. The station and garage are built and the train is running, so maybe that’s what they have to do or create some other kind of a “temporary” discount to get people to use the train.

  3. Andrew I January 12, 2013 at 7:45 am #

    How many people who live near Wickford actually work within a 10-15 minute walk from Providence Station? I would have guessed fewer than 150, so this train is already as well patronized as I could hope! Why am I not happy?

  4. Jef Nickerson January 12, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

    If RIDOT wants people to ride the train from Wickford, then they should find a way to ensure that a lot of condos get built at the Walmart plaza (and find people who are super psyched to live at a Walmart plaza). Also, some sidewalks and bike infrastructure so that people who are inclined toward non-automobile transportation can have any hope of actually getting to the station would be helpful.

  5. barry January 12, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

    We shouldn’t be so negative about this promotion as I”ve noticed many new services, such as the opening of light rail lines, are free at first to get people to know about and try it. At least this is a real marketing effort, and all who hope to see any kind of future improved rail services in RI should help talk it up ,as if this service doesn’t work well enough, there will be less political will for further investment.

    While I don’t see much value for connecting the #66 bus at Wickford (why would someone bother to get off, transfer, and pay another fare if the #66 is already an express to Providence, with Kennedy Plaza likely to be a better terminus. Perhaps the #14, which is a local all the way to the airport, is a better feeder route. We also need joint mbta-ripta fare products which would also make Ripta more useful at PVD station, perhaps by allowing a 50 cent transfer instead of another $2 fare there. And no use blaming RIDOT which though it has no real marketing department, at least they are trying, which is more than could be said for state government officials who at great expense provide free parking for all employees and no transit incentive even though PVD Station is so close to the State House area.

  6. Ryan January 12, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

    That would be some subsidy for the state to basically pay $25,000 for your personal parking spot at Wickford Junction. The station and garage are built and the train is running, so maybe that’s what they have to do or create some other kind of a “temporary” discount to get people to use the train.

    It’s not a bad idea in theory, but not applied this way.

    I could see them offering free parking for a month or two and then reinstating the parking fee – that would probably capture a far wider audience than this free trial gimmick, and most of them would likely keep coming after the parking fee came back. It still feels like admitting failure though.

    Of course, with the second floor of the garage empty most of the time and the top two floors physically blocked off, I would suggest cutting the fee down to $1. It’s not “free parking,” but it’s cheap enough that it might actually attract people, and doesn’t smack of a bad gimmick.

    How many people who live near Wickford actually work within a 10-15 minute walk from Providence Station? I would have guessed fewer than 150, so this train is already as well patronized as I could hope! Why am I not happy?

    Well, I’m no expert but I’m going to guess it’s because this is a terrible, half-finished project and because of how underwhelming response is, it’s never going to be finished. What a shame.

    If RIDOT wants people to ride the train from Wickford, then they should find a way to ensure that a lot of condos get built at the Walmart plaza (and find people who are super psyched to live at a Walmart plaza).

    I have to ask – why does it have to be condos? Actual retail of some kind – or, hell, even an office park – is going to be better than what’s there now, and I really doubt that you’re going to find enough people willing to live right there to justify very much residential, especially in light of all the houses in the neighborhoods right around Wickford Junction.

    It’d be a million times more beneficial if we connected Grant Drive to Wickford Junction, and finished out something – anything – on the opposite side of the tracks in preparation for building a second platform – and I think you’d have better luck with residential development (in 2025, no earlier) on that side of the tracks rather than connected to Walmart.

    In the meantime, I don’t think it’s asking for much to even try to develop something at Wickford Junction that people would want to go to rather than away from.

    Also, some sidewalks and bike infrastructure so that people who are inclined toward non-automobile transportation can have any hope of actually getting to the station would be helpful.

    Forget the sidewalks, let’s even just start with an actual way to cross Routes 2 and 102, particularly at the corner where that godforsaken park and ride is. There’s no crosswalks, and the lights don’t even have a pedestrian-friendly phase – I had to book it across the one time I tried walking to Wickford Junction, and I was legitimately concerned I was going to end up on the front page as “The Idiot Who Got Ran Over Crossing Route 2.”

  7. Ryan January 12, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    We shouldn’t be so negative about this promotion as I”ve noticed many new services, such as the opening of light rail lines, are free at first to get people to know about and try it. At least this is a real marketing effort, and all who hope to see any kind of future improved rail services in RI should help talk it up ,as if this service doesn’t work well enough, there will be less political will for further investment.

    That’s just it – this isn’t “at first.” If they’d opened Wickford Junction with free parking for the first month, two months, three months – back in April, when ridership was a jawdropping 40 daily, nobody would be complaining. It would have been an excellent marketing tactic – here’s this thing, it’s new, free parking while you get used to it, people settle into a routine, come June (or July, or August), parking fares are quietly instated – but everybody knew it was coming, and they’ve already discovered it works so they don’t care.

    This isn’t just to start out. This is nine months into operation, and the feel is less “here’s an incentive to check out this new thing” as it is “we screwed up and need to employ gimmicks and marketing tactics now, we’re desperate to keep this thing alive.” Not to mention, “Wickford Wintertime Wednesdays” is going to be a great way to get someone to try the service once, and then never touch it again, because one time isn’t enough to establish a routine, and prospective free riders are more likely to come away with the mindset of “great service, but not worth what I’d have to pay tomorrow.”

    Kingston’s ridership numbers on Amtrak continue to blow Wickford’s out of the water, the times are better, the trip is faster, service on weekends is here now, and parking is free and their lot is overflowing. (They actually run out of overflow parking sometimes! It’s amazing!)

    I’d go as far as to say that Wickford Junction shouldn’t have been built until everyone was ready to move on South County Commuter Rail, or at least Commuter Rail to Kingston. It should have been infilled six months after South County was up and running, or at the very least, brought online at the same time.

    We jumped the gun, and we’re going to end up paying for it when this abject failure is used to block South County Commuter Rail, and I’ve accepted that – but I’m not happy about it, and I’m frankly sick and tired of trying to defend Wickford Junction.

    While I don’t see much value for connecting the #66 bus at Wickford (why would someone bother to get off, transfer, and pay another fare if the #66 is already an express to Providence, with Kennedy Plaza likely to be a better terminus.

    You’re thinking in the wrong direction – you wouldn’t connect the #66 for people riding the bus into Providence, you’d connect it for people riding the bus out into Kingston, Wakefield, Galilee. Right now, the train stops at Wickford and that’s it – you’re not going anywhere else. Connecting the #66 provides the prospective Wickford Junction train rider with an option to go somewhere else – places they’d probably much rather be – and actually realistically opens up the possibility of a commute in the outbound direction.

    Oh, and the #66 also stops at CCRI – Warwick before it gets to the Park ‘n’ Ride sometimes. So there’s that option, too.

  8. Jef Nickerson January 12, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

    Barry, RIDOT has to take the blame for building a train station for cars. I mean, I don’t see why the cars don’t just drive right onto the train so people can take their cars to Boston with them. The complete disregard for people in the infrastructure in this area is the direct responsibility and failure of RIDOT.

  9. Jef Nickerson January 12, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    Meanwhile, places where people actually would take the train without incentives such as free parking and heated waiting areas, places like Pawtucket, the Wellington section of Cranston, South Providence, Central Falls… these places have no timetable whatsoever on when they could even conceive of thinking about having rail service.

  10. Ryan January 12, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

    Barry, RIDOT has to take the blame for building a train station for cars. I mean, I don’t see why the cars don’t just drive right onto the train so people can take their cars to Boston with them. The complete disregard for people in the infrastructure in this area is the direct responsibility and failure of RIDOT.

    No, they don’t. They have to take the blame for building a badly located station, they have to take the blame for having their priorities way out of order, and they have to take the blame for leaving a project in a half-finished state, possibly forever at the rate things are going.

    But they don’t have to take the blame for “building a train station for cars.” I still distinctly remember the debate I was having with you and others where I was quite emphatically assured that running feeder bus routes all around South County wasn’t an option – so we can either throw vast swathes of the state under the bus, or we can accept that park and rides aren’t inherently evil and can actually be well done and well-patronized. This one isn’t, but they can be.

  11. Peter Brassard January 12, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

    I of all people certainly agree that urban infill stations should or should have been a priority, that doesn’t help with getting people to use commuter rail at Wickford Jct. now. It’s completely unacceptable to even consider that the station/commuter rail might fail. It may be a late and more should be done, but the marketing idea is fine as a start.

    The location of the park-and-ride and the introduction of #65 express bus are unfortunate and underlie the lack of coordination between RIPTA and RIDOT. If you’re driving from anywhere but east, it’s much easier to access the park-and-ride lot and take the express bus instead of the train.

    Wickford Jct. to Providence:
    The train takes 25-minutes costing $3.25 one-way (or about $2.40 one-way with a monthly pass).
    Parking: $4/day (or about $3.44/day with a monthly parking pass).
    Minimum daily total: $8.24

    The express #14 bus takes 29-minutes costing $2 one-way (or about $1.35 one-way with a monthly e-pass).
    Parking: Free
    Minimum daily total: $2.70

    Ryan is right parking should be $1/day ($20 – $23/mo) for a year or two or longer. The same tactic was used to get suburbanites to shop at Providence Place, who under normal circumstances would never pay for parking. The approach worked. Though maybe the parking should be free at Wickford Jct. given the proximity of the free park-and-ride.

    If the local #14 bus inbound and outbound stopped at the station that could help bring passengers. The #14 isn’t the most frequent route and extending it to the station from Post Road would probably add 10- or 20-minutes to the #14’s overall trip time.

    A friend who lives in Richmond who drives and gets reduced rate parking from her employer didn’t know about the train offer and wants to try it out. I doubt she would take the bus, but she doesn’t have a problem with the train. Besides the Statehouse there may be other hidden parking subsidies provided by various downtown employers.

    As for creating a Wickford Junction destination. It could be a mix of uses: residential, office, and neighborhood retail. Rentals rather than condos would more likely be constructed in this economy. There is ample land around the station, if high-density 3- to 5- or 6-story structures were used. The area could become more urban than the current strip-retail environment that dominates today.

  12. Peter Brassard January 13, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    So if RIDOT did screw up with locating the station at Wickford, besides potential city locations, the suburban ones that would have far greater catchment areas within a 10-minute ride would be Kingston and East Greenwich.

    With a broke state and a dysfunctional federal government, both of which have hardly any political will for new mass transit projects, now what?

  13. Ryan January 13, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

    So if RIDOT did screw up with locating the station at Wickford, besides potential city locations, the suburban ones that would have far greater catchment areas within a 10-minute ride would be Kingston and East Greenwich.

    You forgot Davisville, which would have made a much better park and ride than Wickford Junction because we could have located it directly off of 403, just fulfilling the “easy access from the highway” that is supposed to be a selling point for Wickford Junction, but, alas, access from Routes 1, 2, and 4 isn’t that easy. Certainly not compared to what we’d have with a new exit off 403 looping straight into a garage about a mile away from 4 and another mile away from 95.

    Of course, on the actual rail infrastructure side, there’s a freight yard right there in Davisville, which I’m sure means storing and working on trains would be a lot easier there than doing any work at Wickford. Not to mention, we wouldn’t have had to lay (and then stub-end) an extra track, nor would the prospect of actually turning the train around be a huge production any time we had to do it.

    Oh, and if your ruling metric on doing anything is TOD potential, I assure you, there’s worlds more of that waiting to happen at Davisville. Also, Davisville Junction would have actually been located before any future branch line split out to Quonset, thus making it an actual “Junction” unlike Wickford. So there’s that, too.

    With a broke state and a dysfunctional federal government, both of which have hardly any political will for new mass transit projects, now what?

    I don’t know what we do now. I admire your can-do, “failure is unacceptable” attitude, but I’m sure that failure is inevitable at this point.

    If you’ve got any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

  14. Ryan January 13, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

    Let me amend that “I don’t know what we do now.”

    I’ve just been made aware of plans by the state to sell the Route 102&2 Park and Ride land to CVS, and reroute people to Wickford Junction instead of replacing the park and ride. This is Item E on the State Properties Committee Agenda (Tuesday at 10 AM, One Capitol Hill, Conference Room C) if the flyer I’ve just received is to be believed.

    While a CVS is hardly much of an improvement in the development department, eliminating this park and ride can’t hurt us any worse at this point. There’s an outside chance that this will generate more traffic into Wickford, which we sorely need at this point.

    I don’t know if it’s worth the trip out to testify, but I plan on doing so. I hope to see some of you guys there, too.

  15. Jef Nickerson April 3, 2013 at 9:50 am #

    North Kingstown Patch: RIDOT: Commuter Rail Ridership Up in February

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Snowy sidewalks | Greater City Providence - January 16, 2013

    [...] Free Wickford Junction Wednesdays don’t start until next week, but that doesn’t mean one could not pay to ride the train today. Of course then one could not arrive at work late and complain about traffic and how the plows can’t magically make snow that is still falling disappear. [...]

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