Greater City Providence

WPRI: Providence’s streetcar plan hits snag as feds reject $39M proposal

Jef Nickerson, founder and editor of the urban planning and development blog Greater City Providence, told that it is “disappointing that Rhode Island prioritizes funding for automobile infrastructure but continues to fail in funding for mass transit services in the state’s urban core.”

Nickerson cited the General Assembly’s inability to pass legislation that would provide a reliable source of funding for the R.I. Public Transportation Authority and Chafee’s unwillingness to support the streetcar as examples of how the state “undervalues transit.”

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  • Agreed with your points, Jef. However, why not use this setback as an opportunity. I don’t know if there’s any chance of changing the route, but if the goal is to leverage the streetcar to build up the Jewelry District, then the focus on that bit rather than Brown University. Instead of Thayer Street, start at La Salle Square and end at the hospitals via Empire, Chestnut, Richmond and Eddy Streets. Ideally, where Chestnut Street meets Point Street, you could extend Chestnut Street so that it intersects Eddy Street, but that would impact the existing businesses so I’m not sure that’s realistic. With the exception of snaking the streetcar from Chestnut Street to Richmond Street, it’s a straighter route that the current configuration, plus, you’re not duplicating service. I’m not a transit planner, but to my untrained eye, I really this this would improve the practicality and utilization on the route. It’s a shorter route meaning it takes less time for the streetcar to travel and would improve frequency. At the northern terminus, you have the businesses on Empire Street/ LaSalle Square including the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. You also have an expansion opportunity to Federal Hil in the future. As for Brown University personnel, they can transfer from the #92 Green Line trolley. Anyway, just my $0.02.

  • As I said in my previous comment on the report of the Apponaug Circulator winning a grant, the current iteration of the Providence Streetcar – i.e., the Core Connector – is an extremely questionable investment and carries an unacceptable level of risk.

    As I’ve said before here and elsewhere, the biggest source of that risk is the current routing – and while I disagree with the particulars of Towne Street’s suggestion because I believe a lot of that risk goes hand-in-hand with the stated goal of the Core Connector as “Jewelry District Stimulus,” I believe he’s on to something when he suggests considering this an opportunity rather than a setback. We’re well on our way towards rolling out our first rapid bus line – the R-Line, which is far and away RIPTA’s most productive bus route even before the swathe of improvements lined up for it get implemented. If you want a can’t-lose proposition, if you want the closest thing to a transit slam dunk that we can ever hope to see in this state – it’s converting the R-Line to light rail.

    I do believe that the Core Connector can be a good project, and I don’t doubt that it can be a very productive part of Providence’s light rail / streetcar network – but the keyword there is “network.” I’m significantly less confident in its ability to succeed as a stand-alone project, or even as a “Phase I” to the rest of the network – this is, if anything, a solid Phase III project. Now that it’s been rejected, it’s time to table the Core Connector, draw up plans for the R Streetcar, and demonstrate that we’re getting serious about real investment into effective transit – not to complain about other bad projects getting funding and using those projects as the rationalization for submitting this exact same project next year and getting this exact same result.

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