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Providence Streetcar wins federal TIGER Grant

rendering-streetcar-empire

Congressman Cicilline confirms on Twitter:


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54 Responses to Providence Streetcar wins federal TIGER Grant

  1. barry September 11, 2014 at 3:45 pm #

    Unbelievable. Its shows one has to be careful what you wish for.
    To spend the $13 million it will cost us another $100 million or so.

  2. Anthony September 11, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

    Well this is nice….but…..where do we get the other….26 million we requested…

  3. Aaron Masri September 11, 2014 at 4:15 pm #

    Mixed emotions. I want it to succeed but I do not agree with the project as currently configured. Not enough frequency and a route that is too delay prone due to vehicle traffic.

  4. Edgar September 11, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

    Sweet!

  5. Steve September 11, 2014 at 4:39 pm #

    Great!!! Now we need the support of the Governor or next one to get the other $26M.

    This will support the I-Way and south very well.

  6. Mark Moreno September 11, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

    What would be great is once providence gets a bikeshare system, some bikeshare stations should be placed at streetcar stops.

  7. Brian Hull September 11, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

    Providence requested $29 million total for the TIGER grant, and we apparently received $13 million. My math may be off, but that looks like a $16 million difference, not a $26 million difference.

    The other funds are:
    RIPTA CMAQ funds $5.3 M
    RIDOT land transfer $0.8 M
    City of Providence TIF Revenue Bond $57.7 M
    State of RI Capital Funds $15.0 M
    RI Convention Center Bond $10.0 M

    Perhaps we can make up the difference with a boost in RI Capital Funds and/or a higher Convention Center bond. More than anything, this shows federal support for this type of a project – and that’s a good thing for Providence.

  8. Steve September 11, 2014 at 5:56 pm #

    Your math is correct.

    The key is that Cicciline et al get on these other sources and make it happen…jobs, inner city mass transit, added value to I-Way and Arts & Entertainment District, added plus for tourists, and prestige.

    Governor is a key player.

  9. Peter Brassard September 11, 2014 at 8:28 pm #

    Jef, The link to the streetcar page on the city website doesn’t work.

    The following link works:
    providenceri.com/efile/5439

    This is a good start. I agree with others regarding the route, in particular the tortured path through the Jewelry District. Besides the trucks that park half in the street and on the sidewalk in front of the medical school on Richmond, having a portion of the route follow Point Street is not the best idea. Since the I-way project was completed, traffic on Point Street has gotten worse and before it was never great. At times traffic is forced to wait for two cycles of the light to get through the intersection towards Fox Point.

    With the pair of Elbow Street stops, why is it better for the streetcar route to slowly meander through the Jewelry District? It’s too bad they won’t locate the route from Chestnut to Ship to Eddy, so that there’s one simple cross of Point Street. Supposedly there’s a significant sewer main that runs just under the Dyer/Eddy corridor. Since there once was a power station located along that corridor, it’s probably problematic to put tracks in the street with underground electric utilities that supply much of downtown.

    A possible and perhaps radical alternative might be to construct a flyover roughly from Ship Street to Allens Avenue over the Point Street intersection, which would significantly speed up the route. There is a precedent of an elevated structure over Point and Eddy as there once was the Point Street Viaduct. There could be a stop with transparent walls over the Point Street intersection. It could be elegant, but is likely too unconventional, not to mention expensive for Providence.

  10. linda September 11, 2014 at 9:09 pm #

    There was a fly over in that area in the 6 ‘ s then referred to as a viadock- went right over that exact area- guess everything old is new again.

  11. Adam September 11, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

    Found a picture of the Point St Viaduct from the 40’s http://farm9.static.flickr.com/8054/8096866357_5cc26bf195_z.jpg

  12. Jef Nickerson September 11, 2014 at 10:10 pm #

    RIDOT literally tore out the last footings from the old viaduct this week.

  13. barry September 12, 2014 at 3:17 pm #

    Maybe because I am on the Transportation Advisory Committee that sees the tough choices with our limited funds that I find this project so wasteful. Another $100 million or so still needed has an opportunity cost. Alternate transportation advocates have an enormous unfunded wish list including properly fixing up the Providence train station (a start is being made) a Pawtucket commuter train stop that would connect Pawtucket-Central Falls to the Boston market and provide them express sefvice from Providence, weekend mbta commuter service to Wickford, more R-line type bus enhancements and increased frequencies on key and even overcrowded bus routes, additional bus hubs much needed now that Kennedy Plaza bus infrastructure is being reduced, extending the bike path network to core cities such as central Pawtucket and Woonsocket and the south county path to the coast, some separated bike lanes in Providence and something on Aquodneck Island, plus some kind of rail shuttle to the airport, maybe all the way to Woonsocket, Plus the difficulty of finding oeprating support, we need the CMAQ funds to keep commuter rail going, and RIPTA is projecting serious deficits as is.

    Compared to that, the streetcar seems ludicrous, who will ride it? Ther ei s little commuter base. Not that many live along the route, and those that do can mostly walk to any destinations on the route faster than a lumbering streetcar, even aside from the $2 local fare and the vast expenditures on parking garages. Further, RIPTA’s Route 1 is on much the same route and can do it faster and get around obstacles better. It also gives more flexibility in case one wanted to go beyond where the streetcar would go. And those who use the tunnel buses would face major delays during the period of construction disruption, even if the tunnel could eventually be shared by buses and streetcars.

    Finally, more Federal funding for this is likely wishful thinking, indeed today’s news indicated House Republicans propse a 40% cut in Amtrak funding and if they get Senate control all transit funding could be at risk.

  14. Andy September 12, 2014 at 4:48 pm #

    Good news. Bad news is that the proposed route still sucks. Serves a minority of residents and provides more of a tourist attraction than anything else. Mass transit should serve the masses, right?

  15. Steve September 12, 2014 at 6:52 pm #

    If you look at the plan, it expands in the future to the train station and to the west – serving much more of the “masses”

  16. Steve September 12, 2014 at 6:59 pm #

    I disagree with you in large measure.

    Pawtucket, Woosocket, New Bedfors, and all of the suburbs of Providence should be connected to Providence – not Boston in any way.

    The street car system could be extended to Pawtucket easily, and a light rail connecting the city to its airport should be part of the larger plan for thre system, and be advocated by theTransportation Advisory Committee

    I do agree that future transit funding could be at risk.

  17. Sam September 12, 2014 at 8:52 pm #

    Steve, I’m with you.

    barry, you’re being unbelievably myopic, but don’t feel bad, because so is everyone else. Nice that the Feds tossed us this $13m bone, real decent of ’em and all, but my question is, where are we going to get the rest of the billion dollars we would need to construct a decent streetcar system connecting downtown Providence to Pawtucket/Central Falls, EP, South Providence, PC/RIC/North Providence, Federal Hill, Olneyville, the West End, “downtown” Cranston, “downtown” Johnston, and the airport?

  18. James September 12, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

    I think this is a wasteful project, and it shows no commitment to real transit.

  19. Ryan September 12, 2014 at 11:07 pm #

    This is some of the worst news I’ve read all week.

    James and Barry have it right. This is not a real transit project, this has never been about transit and has always been about economic development for the blighted Jewelry District.

    I would urge streetcar supporters not to be fooled by plans and proposals for expansion that were doomed to failure by the abysmal Core Connector routing even before the grant came in well under what the final bill is going to be. What is actually going to happen here is that the streetcar will fail, should fail in phase one, and unfortunately, its failure will deal real and irreparable harm to other efforts for transit expansion. In fact, forget related but separate projects such as the Providence station enhancements or the new Pawtucket station – who is going to sign off on extending a streetcar line when the only part of it in existence is a failure, “proving” that streetcars/transit won’t work in Providence?

    The project needs to be scrapped, we all need to go back to the drawing board on this thing, and the city and state must not be fooled into again throwing good money after bad money just because someone decided to throw out a $13 million lure and see who would bite on it.

    It is still not too late, however. I would urge the next Governor and next Mayor – whoever they may be – to take a stand against this project and reject the grant money. We can still get this right, and streetcars absolutely can succeed in Providence, but only if we acknowledge the Core Connector’s flaws and address them now instead of running damage control starting on the streetcar’s first day of operation and maybe before then.

  20. Anne September 13, 2014 at 9:44 am #

    It is true that there is limited funding available for transit projects in both RI and across the US. However, unlike other local projects – such as weekend rail service to Wickford, increased RIPTA bus service, more rail service to T.F.Green, etc. – the City of Providence has put forth a plan to operate the Providence Streetcar without any the use of state funding. The City would establish a tax increment finance district around the streetcar route to support operations, a method now being used in many cities to introduce transit lines that were once supported by federal funds. The state would be asked to contribute some capital dollars for construction, but not for operations.

    Transit investments, like any major public infrastructure improvement in our state, are almost always built using a mix of federal and state funds, including the $1.3 billion Narragansett Bay CSO project, the $600 million I-Way, $300 million Wickford parking garage. Other projects rely more heavily on just state funding, such as the proposed $150 million URI engineering school. Many of the future projects mentioned in previous posts, (e.g. Pawtucket rail station and improvements to Providence Station) will also likely seek support from the feds, as well as a state contribution.

    I think its important to remember that the City of Providence is not only our capital city but our regional economic center. If the City does not continue to improve its economic health, the rest of RI will suffer and there would likely be little need or impetus to improve connections between Providence and TF Green, Woonsocket, Pawtucket, etc. The relatively small state contribution being requested by the City to match federal and local dollars for this project would provide more transportation options and catalyze economic activity in the economic, cultural and residential hub of our state. Our neighbors recognize this and continue to make large transit investments in their capital cities, with Boston just opening up a new $29 million Orange Line Station and making significant progress on a $1.3 billion Green Line extension. Hartford CT will open their $500 million bus guideway next spring.

    It would certainly be awesome if we could jump right in and build the streetcar to also serve the train station, the west side, Allens Avenue, Olneyville, Pawtucket, Fall River, etc. But you gotta start somewhere, and the route proposed connects the two largest employers in our state, with the center of the city, its arts district, convention center, hotels, and downtown residential neighborhoods. Working to make this first segment successful would be a good first step towards a larger, stronger multi-modal transit system in the future.

  21. James September 13, 2014 at 11:28 am #

    I think Anne makes good points about the need to “start somewhere”, and I would encourage people not to oppose this project on the grounds that it’s too short, since having pilot routes that can be expanded is a perfectly feasible idea. I also think that putting money towards transit is important, and the per-square-foot charge on development to do so is a great model for setting up transit (although it’d be nice if we made people pay costs for roads or parking like that, wouldn’t it? Kind of a double standard…). You’d have to know me to know that the reasons I oppose this are not the above. The real reason I think this is not a very good project is it focuses on infrastructural technology as if that’s going to fix transit, instead of focusing on service. Rails in the ground could be good if run well–that is, with rights-of-way for transit, signal priority, station payment, frequent (at least 5 minute peak, 10 minute off-peak) service, etc., but we’re not getting that. The 12 minute peak service times on this route make walking a competitive option to get from the Superman Building to either extreme of the route, according to Google Maps. The 20 minute off-peak service is even worse. For a very local route like this, there needs to be high frequency, or else it doesn’t work.

    The argument could be made that we could put this in and improve frequencies over time, but I think that gets it wrong since the $120 or $130 M needed to complete this project could put that frequency in place right now with buses. Giving rights-of-way to the buses costs some money too, since we need to put in retractable bollards to keep cars out, but it’s a much smaller cost that the city could afford more easily than this project.

    And the thing about development is kind of complicated. I think Ryan makes good points in general, but I don’t 100% agree with him. I definitely feel like people who are enthusiastic about this streetcar want to see it as a stimulus for building, but that’s not necessarily a totally horrible thing. The question we have to ask is less whether this is about development, but whether we have the right metrics for what brings development in the first place. In Portland, which is the only place in the US that really can be cited as having benefited from a streetcar or light rail project, the major impetus was put on land use policies. Since the Jewelry District seems bent on putting garages everywhere in its domain, I don’t see how we’re taking that on in any real way.

    With a twisty, oddly-routed course, and with no rights-of-way, and no signal priority, and without any station improvements or frequency, I don’t see how this can work, especially in the midst of the Pahhk Yahh Cahh City (that’s our new slogan, right? Instead of Renaissance or Creative Capital?).

  22. Mark Moreno September 13, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

    I feel like Providence is the only place that cares about being multi-modal. Rhode Island has the size and density to become a mecca for mass transit, walking and biking. I kind of don’t want to put the blame on RIDOT but I kind of have to.

    If RIDOT actually cared about the future of Rhode Island (I’m not saying they don’t) there would be more investment in rail. I have noticed that cities that do not have the best mass transit systems are usually cities that are struggling economically. If RIDOT actually cared about other forms of transportation, Providence wouldn’t need to apply for a TIGER grant and the peak times would be quicker for the streetcar.

    I hope the next governor, who ever It may be, will actually care about other forms of transportation besides automobiles. I feel like I have been saying this over and over again. Mass transit, biking, and walkability improvements should be a statewide effort, but I have to say, the streetcar is a good first step.

  23. Mark Moreno September 13, 2014 at 3:05 pm #

    *Providence is the only place in RI that cares about being multi-modal. sorry about that typo.

  24. Sam September 13, 2014 at 7:45 pm #

    Just wanted to point out that each of the two F-18’s that crashed in the Pacific yesterday cost $57m. In the context of this discussion, I can’t help but think that $114m could have served our country better ways.

    Specifically, to take up a point Mark M made, it’s painfully obvious in this country today that only our wealthy showcase cities (which of course have their own economic gravity) can afford comprehensive mass transit. Meanwhile, our secondary and tertiary cities are left to muddle along as best they can. I for one think our profligate defense (defense? offense more like, but it’s a lot easier to get massive military expenditures into the budget if you emphasize the need for such exorbitantly priced equipment by pushing the element of fear on the unwitting populace) spending is largely to blame. If not for the sad fact that the only real advantage we in the US possess over the rest of the world these days is our “big stick,” to use Roosevelt’s term, there would be money and money to spare for the infrastructure projects we desperately need to keep our economy and environment healthy. Alas, places like Providence or Memphis or Akron stagnate because we’re told we need more warships and warplanes (and wars).

    I think of a sarcastic parallel with the famous line from the Barbary wars. In that case, our official diplomatic reply to foreign extortion was, “Millions for defense, but not a cent for tribute!” Well, in this instance, in my view, it’s trillions for the defense of America, but pennies for the projects and programs that would truly help the American people.

    In other words, anyone who is serious about urban environments and infrastructure needs to be lobbying their Congressional delegation HARD to reduce funding for the mil-ind complex. Because until people start to make the correlation, and make it loudly and often, between our unnecessarily large military spending and our third-world infrastructure, nothing is going to change.

  25. Mark Moreno September 13, 2014 at 11:34 pm #

    Sam, this may seem crazy and naïve, but I think Providence can become more than just a tertiary city. It could become the greatest comeback city in America. If Providence becomes a successful city economically, Providence may even become a new competitor for Boston. As you can tell I have enormous pride and hope for Providence. I my hometown to death. I love the fact that there’s so many people in Providence that want to make Providence a better city. Providence is such an exciting city!

  26. Peter Brassard September 14, 2014 at 6:58 pm #

    Barry raises valid points and articulates them well. His point about the major disruption to the tunnel during track and catenary construction, (which I never thought of), is well taken. I don’t really disagree on many of the issues he raises, but the grant has been awarded, so if the streetcar proposal in its present form is the wrong project, should the city reject the money or should the project be modified?

    As Ryan points out many of the decisions that were made were indeed about economic development. Other than serving as a transit trip extender (or circulator) for a downtown that has by any measure expanded beyond reasonable walking distance, its primary impact would be to act as catalyst for economic development.

    RIPTA’s three bus-hub plan (Alt 3) would offer extremely frequent headways downtown on par with the subway in Manhattan at rush hour. With the exception of the west sides of the 195-land and the Jewelry District (JD), Alt 3’s route configuration, stop locations, and frequencies would be a far better choice for the majority of downtown mass transit than the current streetcar proposal by itself.

    The streetcar project is more about development, but if it doesn’t get built, would buses alone trigger economic development and growth in the 195-land and the JD or even on the surface parking lots Downcity or the several languishing parcels of Capital Center?

    Seattle’s South Lake Union Streetcar first phase is 1.3-miles with only 7 stops. It’s located in what was an underutilized part of the city that was dominated by single-story warehouses and parking lots. Within less than two years after the streetcar opened, over a million square feet of development popped up. That development would never have been built along that corridor without the streetcar. Currently, its ridership is about 1,400 daily passengers. There are other similar examples from cities across the country.

    In my view the Providence Streetcar proposal was always trying to do too much (in a way on the cheap) and did little of it well. Many streetcar projects around the country have started with more modest one-mile segments like Seattle.

    Typically for urban high-density development, companies and developers look for rail mass transit. When no rail mass transit exists, construction costs are higher because of required additional parking, and because of that parking, even in cities, the end product tends to be more similar to suburban office park development and density.

    If Providence and the state are so interested in developing the 195-land to create a new job base for the state, and expects developers and companies from out-of-state to do much of the investment, in my opinion the district must include rail mass transit as part of package. Any Boston commercial real estate broker will tell you that if the Red-Line didn’t exist, even with Harvard and MIT, there would be no Cambridge/Boston boom today. It’s not a coincidence that there has been such a high percentage of local developers submitting proposals on the 195-land compared to out-of-state or country developers.

    Barry has correctly pointed out that RIPTA’s #1 links College Hill, the medical school, and hospitals (Meds to Eds). However, the #1 doesn’t link the train station nor the west side of 195-land and the JD.

    Since the Meds to Eds group already has mass transit service, I propose the following:
    1. Increase the frequency of the #1 bus between Thayer Street and the hospitals. It could be as simple as adding one or two buses during the day to the route between those two points.

    2. Abandon the Tunnel/College Hill segment of the proposed streetcar.

    3. Start the streetcar route at or near the train station with a single track. (It could be one short block away from the station on Exchange between Park Row W and Stillman)

    4. Run the streetcar as 2-tracks from KP to Chestnut and Ship.

    5. South of Chestnut and Ship reduce to one track. (Total route length, not including service yard spur, 1.2-miles)

    6. Last stop Chestnut and Point (8-stops Total from the train station to Point Street)

    7. Run a single track along the tortured Hospital Street route to the service yard at Allens and Eddy.

    8. Alternate service yard somewhere off of Point Street. (Perhaps the triangle parcel next to the highway).

    9. Establish a Downtown “Short-zone” with fares at one-quarter of the full fare for buses and the streetcar, (the Downtown Short-zone district could be framed by the hospitals, the Doyle Square high schools, state offices/University Heights, and Thayer at the tunnel entrance).

    Building a streetcar system that failed would be a disaster, but what would the impact be to rejecting the grant or what are the advantages of building it? Desperately needed economic development and job creation might not happen or not as much because of the city’s current mass transit system. If the streetcar proposal in its present form is the wrong project, the mass transit advocacy community and city and state officials should come up with alternatives to the current proposal. I made one list of possible modifications; does anyone else have other ideas they would like to suggest?

  27. Sreve September 15, 2014 at 5:38 am #

    Agree, Mark…the next Governor is the key.

    Get rid of the current chairman of RIPTA (Avediasian from Warwick) and appoint a PVD guy with an urban core perspectve.

  28. Steve September 15, 2014 at 5:47 am #

    Mark – Again, fully agree.

    Several keys to your hope and dream (which I share).

    First, a Governor who appoint PVD urban core guys to chair the RIPTA and RIAC.
    Second, an organization that proclaims and advocates for PVD as the core of its 1.6M person metro
    Third, state and federal funding based on the approach “as goes PVD, so goes the state and larger metro ”
    Fourth, a Mayor that believes it and fights for it

    Greater City Providence could be that organization.

  29. Ryan September 15, 2014 at 7:13 am #

    Steve, I want to challenge you right now to name me one good example of incompetence, mismanagement, or malevolence on the part of Scott Avedisian.

    Give me something, anything, that he’s done or failed to do which would rise to the level of a firing.

    I’m challenging you because I don’t think you can, because I think you just want him gone because how dare he have been born and raised on the wrong side of the Providence border.

  30. James Kennedy September 15, 2014 at 10:22 am #

    BRT causes development to happen:

    http://www.citylab.com/work/2013/09/when-it-comes-streetcars-and-economic-development-theres-still-so-much-we-dont-know/6899/

    ~~~~

    On the development side, too, I’d say that I think we should set our sites lower in terms of height. If someone wants to put in a really tall building, then great. But I think that we should be open to two and three story buildings, so long as they develop in a way that has no parking, has the buildings built to the sidewalk, etc. What I’m thinking of are complaints I hear in Philadelphia quarters sometimes that too much of that city is two-story rowhouses. Jon Geeting, who I usually agree with a lot, wrote a complaint piece talking about how Philly needs to upzone many of its neighborhoods beyond that housing type. And while I agree that upzoning makes sense, in a lot of ways I think people idealize it and think that it’s going to immediately bring large changes, when in reality it’s just a change giving permission for something to happen which may or may not happen immediately.

    What worries me in part about the goal being development, and of that development essentially meaning height, is that I still think we’re enthralled by Corbusier, whether or not we want to admit it. I go to the downtown of Boston, and frankly, I feel cut adrift. I hate that place. It’s very dense by a certain measure, but in many ways the roads are too wide, the buildings don’t feel activating and are all ugly, and there’s just no good reason to be there. I go to someplace like Chinatown in Boston, or South Boston, and those streets mostly make feel really happy to be there. The buildings are attractive. The streets are small(er).

    I raised the question to people on Twitter of whether they’d rather see the Jewelry District develop tall, but with lots of parking garages, or if they’d like to see one-story buildings, and what I meant to really shove in people’s faces with that is a realization that what we’re planning to build is really glorified one-story construction pretending to be something else. I think the question has to be extended further. If we build a streetcar that’s not useful for transportation and has low ridership, but it gets somebody to build a tower, is that a success? Or would we rather have smaller, cheaper buildings–maybe 2 or 3 stories tall–go in, and hold those buildings to expectations that they have no parking other than on-street parking, that they be built to the street, that they be built as rowhouses or triple deckers, etc? I think getting that kind of development may be cheaper and will be more realistic, and won’t tie us into Tower-in-the-Park designs.

  31. Steve September 15, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

    Calm down, Ryan.

    The issue is perspective. I have known him for 20 years. He – along with almost anyone from the suburbs – does not share the understanding that Providence is the core of the metro, New England’s second largest city, and that Warwick is simply a suburb of it. His actions reflect it.

    1 – removal of the trolleys from routes 92 and 6 – the “Providence Link” has been abolished and replaced by buses….a tourist turn-off.
    2- pushing for the funding of an unnecessary rotary in his city instead of the streetcar system
    3 – the delusion that people fly to Warwick as a destination.
    4 – wait until the next RIPTA fiscal report

    This is not about individuals – it is about the right individuals in the right places. Without an urban vision, there is no action.

  32. Ryan September 15, 2014 at 5:43 pm #

    Steve, I’m perfectly calm – but it is incredibly important that we all recognize, as you say, that this is not about individuals. Rather, it is about a vision, and a cohesive unit moving towards the same goal.

    It’s worth questioning any time an assertion is made based on someone being born or raised in any given location. And in this case, of the four things you mentioned as being both directly attributable to Avedisian and evidence of how he “doesn’t get it,” frankly, only one is directly attributable to his stewardship of RIPTA and it’s the least offensive item on the list.

    Maybe this is evidence of my own failure to “get it,” but I don’t see how having the trolley buses abolished and replaced by regular buses is a tourist turn-off. I’ll accept it at face value, and agree that this was a decision Avedisian either consented to or made himself. And in that case, certainly, you can assert that it was a poor decision – but in the grand scheme of things, I don’t think it rises to the level of calling for his political head on a pike.

    As for the other three…

    The Apponaug Circulator was Chafee’s (and RIDOT’s) baby far more than it was or is Avedisian’s. At worst, you can accuse Avedisian of falling into lock-step behind Chafee far too quickly and much too easily, but even then the pair of them share blame in equal measure.

    I’m also on the record in a great many places here and elsewhere opposing the magic traffic circles, but as I’ve pointed out before and will point out again – framing the debate around the idea that that was an either/or decision was a disservice to the for and against camps of both projects. Both projects deserved and deserve rejection for an entirely separate set of reasons with very little overlap, and as it turned out, the decision wasn’t either/or because both projects received grants (even though I maintain that in a just universe, neither would have.)

    I find it more likely that that Avedisian, caught in something of a conflict of interest, decided simply to get swept along for the ride behind Chafee rather than stick his neck out without the benefit of advocacy groups or any constituency that would stand behind him in opposition to the Circulator on its own merits, armed either with a better proposal for the same goal or with a well-reasoned argument for why doing nothing was an option that had merit. Alas, that would have required treating the Circulator as its own bad project instead of as half of a false dichotomy packaged with the Core Connector, the debate never progressed past the either-or stage, nobody ever advanced the argument for why the Core Connector didn’t deserve money on its own merits, RIDOT was never forced to advance better road works proposals for that area, and the rest is bad history. Again, Avedisian isn’t blameless here, but he’s also not the sole responsible party – and frankly, the Circulator catastrophe is a better argument for installing someone else as the next Mayor of Warwick than it is for installing someone else as the next head of RIPTA.

    I’m sorry, but the third point you made is rather incomprehensible to me. I’m not entirely sure what point you’re trying to make, and some cursory research didn’t reveal any overt quotes by Avedisian to the effect of people are flying to Warwick for Warwick (as opposed to flying there for Providence, or to avoid Logan.) I would also point out that since the Airport is indeed in Warwick and it’s extremely doubtful that it will move any time soon, developing around the airport and working to better knit it into the urban fabric of the core and the metro area that it claims to serve is entirely reasonable, responsible stewardship, and commendable.

    To your last point, I’m happy to wait until the next RIPTA fiscal report to revise my opinion on this particular issue – especially if there’s something huge and scandalous buried in it – but in the meantime, I have trouble assigning 100% of the blame for RIPTA’s fiscal woes to Avedisian when the true source of that particular problem is with our recalcitrant friends up on the Hill who have refused and continue to refuse to properly fund RIPTA. I also have trouble believing that a “PVD urban core guy” is going to have better luck squeezing blood out of that stone than Avedisian has.

  33. Steve September 15, 2014 at 7:10 pm #

    OK, Ryan. For fear of getting “bogged down”, this will be my last comment on our discussion.

    1- The removal of the trolleys does have a negative impact on tourist use, particularly for a national destination like Federal Hill. The reasons are numerous.
    2- The mayor was activily involved in the rotary effort with the Governor…so partial blame is correct. I do not care who is Mayor of Warwick.
    3- He has been actvely engaged in efforts with RIAC to change the name. This alone is evidence of a failure to have an metro prospective, a requirement of RIPTA leadership
    4- The RIPTA fiscal situation is particially attributable to adding/maintaining low rider suburan routes. Again, not sole blame…

    My point is not to attach blame, but to identify a leader who will advocate for the urban core – that simple. Knowing him well, he is not it.

    Cementing transportation leaders in the key positions to share a vision, advocate, testify, plan, and execute is the key to Providence and its metro. We can do much better. Remember Tom Deller?

    Thanks for the spirit – GO Providence.

  34. Peter Brassard September 16, 2014 at 10:50 am #

    James – The JD is already zoned for 7-story buildings and nothing is getting built, not even 1- or 2-story buildings. Even without parking, current land values make 2- or 3-story buildings uneconomical to construct.

    The only area where taller towers are proposed in the 195-land are along the highway and those would be no more that 200-feet (office 14 to 15-story; residential 18 to 19-story). Most of the two districts are mid-rise.

    Providence has setback and street wall requirements that make it difficult to repeat Boston’s Corbusian development patterns or Providence’s Regency from the 1960s. I don’t think anyone would seriously propose towers-in-the-park today.

    If there is an exception to low scale development, the downtown vicinity (including the JD) is it and it doesn’t have to be high-rise towers to be high-density. As long as the car is the predominant transportation form, development of any kind will be problematic.

    The BRT piece was interesting. Other than Portland and the Seattle example I gave, there doesn’t seem to be much data on streetcar impact on development, but there is for BRT.

    As has been discussed previously, other than three or four arterial streets, Providence lacks the street width for BRT. If “Rapid Bus” is as close to BRT as Providence can get, especially downtown, bus stops should be designed to be more like stations with bump-outs that extend to the travel lane edge, covered platforms elevated to match the 14-inch height of a low floor bus, and fares should be paid before entering the bus.

    Many have said that the streetcar route should extend to Olneyville or elsewhere to less advantaged neighborhoods in the city. Perhaps Providence should be a city where light rail/streetcar doesn’t happen, unless ridership demands it. An example would be when the R-Line exceeds 30,000+ passengers per day. Articulated buses and 5-minute headways would not be enough to handle that capacity, so that would be the time to invest in surface rail.

    Maybe the streetcar naysayers are right that the project should be completely scrapped. If that’s the case then much heavier investment into the existing bus system needs to happen. If rail investment were to be shifted then besides the Pawtucket Station, the Olneyville Station concept should be revived and both should be put on accelerated schedules.

  35. James September 17, 2014 at 11:21 am #

    Olneyville & Pawtucket station are a great idea. Highway removal in Olneyville is a necessary to make the project more walkable, and to encourage infill. I’d like to see Providence imagine BRT that’s car-free to deal with width issues. Certainly, N. Main can lose a lane in each direction, and could go completely car free near University Heights if the car traffic were detoured along Charles and Randall (0.1 mile diversion). Exchange Street, Washington, and Empire could go car-free. Broad needs car access to where it branches off with Elmwood, but why nott use them as a car/no-car pair after that? The parking on that section of Broad could be removed to allow car lanes, so that BRT can take the other width. (I think this could be piloted in pieces). I think we should open ourselves to the idea that the car can disappear entirely from some of our projects.

    In some ways I think we’re using rail for the wrong things, but we could still use it. The circulation through downtown should be mostly a matter for bikes and walking, with BRT, while more expensive rail should be reserved for faster, longer trips. Using a high-end technology to such low use seems like pulling out the champaign to clean the sidewalk with. Investment in rail in the city could be nice, but we shouldn’t do it just to say we did it.

  36. Sam September 18, 2014 at 7:26 am #

    Ryan, you must not have flown out of Green much in the late 90’s when the airport nearly papered over its walls with large posters bearing Avedisian’s grinning mug and a pedantic inscription painfully informing inbound passengers that, contrary to what they had just been told upon landing, they had just arrived in Warwick NOT Providence. As if landing in Warwick could be called “arriving” anywhere at all!

    Steve’s point was quite valid: as mayor of Warwick, Avedisian deliberately and unnecessarily chose to play a zero-sum game, pitting his “city” against Providence for commercial and tourist dollars. This was unfortunate and short-sighted and should NOT be forgotten.

  37. Sam September 18, 2014 at 7:29 am #

    This was late 90’s, early 2000’s.

  38. Person September 18, 2014 at 10:31 am #

    Sam, I don’t get the hate for Warwick. It’s mean-spirited to think people should actively avoid Warwick. it’s actually a pretty nice town and more urban than people give it credit for. I lived there for a while without a car, and RIPTA does pretty well for how sprawling it is. Also, isn’t that proposed development near airport/post road urban enough? The more economic activity in warwick, the more urban it will become (they have nowhere to build but up).

    Would you fault Laguardia if they had a “Welcome to Queens” sign? Honestly, I think prov’s relationship with Warwick, Cranston, Pawtucket/CF, and EP should be closer to boroughs, not just a metro area relationship. That’s why I don’t think it could turn into an Oakland county/Detroit situation (that, and if you’ve spent time in warwick, you know it’s not exactly wealthy).

    I suppose I’m in the minority in thinking the Apponaug circulator is good. It will make the area more walkable, which I though GCPVD is in favor of. Sure, it’s a car-centric solution, but it’s a car-centric economy.

    Here’s an idea if you think we should have a metro mentality: Why not do more to connect prov, warwick and pawtucket? I know the streetcar can theoretically do that, but only after exclusively serving yuppies for a decade.

  39. Person September 18, 2014 at 10:41 am #

    Also, just to drive home a point: Warwick should not be overlooked when thinking about economic activity in the region. They’re not just an airport, they’ve got a whole host of retail, industrial, and service jobs. Many, if not most, of those jobs are easily accessable by the poorest sections of providence. Ride the 20 and the 3 during commuting times, and you’ll see what I mean. Or, look at the warwick exit ramps that dangerously back up in the morning (Jefferson blvd. particularly).

  40. Jef Nickerson September 18, 2014 at 10:47 am #

    I don’t hate Warwick, but I would rather not live there. It is indeed an very important part of our metro and in any other area of the country, it would be a collection of Providence neighborhoods, not its own city. It is crazy how balkanized our colonial past makes us New Englanders.

    The Apponaug circulator will probably be good for pedestrians on the small business section part of Post Road where City Hall is, but the rest of the project is a pedestrian (and cyclist) wasteland. Which is really unfortunate because it was a prime opportunity to think about how to connect future development around Apponaug and especially up near the airport to the area for modes other than cars (and RIPTA accommodations are not part of the project, never mentioned in the TIGER grant application).

    There are dense nodes throughout Warwick knit together by hostile four lane arterials, it makes me sad.

  41. Jef Nickerson September 18, 2014 at 10:49 am #

    Also, isn’t there still a Welcome to Warwick sign at the airport. I don’t think anyone has ever disembarked their plane, saw a Warwick sign and said, “oh for fucksake, how did I get here, I wanted to go to Providence?!?!”

  42. Sam September 18, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

    Person,

    You’re helping to make my point about Avedisian: the relationship between Providence and Warwick should be treated as a non-zero-sum situation. Not competitive, in other words, but symbiotic. It was a gross politicization for Avedisian to slap his face on those posters, and it was offensive IN PARTICULAR because the advertising proposed Warwick as an alternative to Providence, when in fact as anybody with half brain can see the two cities are inextricably linked parts of the same whole (and as Jef points out, would almost certainly fall under single municipal governance in any other part of the country than New England).

    I made a stab at Warwick earlier, but my point was not mainly to detract from Warwick. Rather, my point was this: the man who as mayor of Warwick used his face in an advertising campaign that essentially denounced or dismissed Providence does not deserve the directorship of RIPTA, the activities of which concentrate on Providence.

  43. Steve September 19, 2014 at 12:29 am #

    That is the point indeed. Warwick is simply a suburb of Providence that the runway happen to be in. It is not a destination in any way, shape, or form.

    Avadesian opposed airport expansion and held out an aggreement contingent on having all refernces to Providence removed!!! Check out the Green website…
    Green Airport – PVD – Rhode Island.

    People fly to major cities- not suburbs or states. .

    And his buddy the Governor (also from Warwick) rewarded him – that is why we need someone from Providence heading RIPTA and RIAC.

    The best thing that can happen is to change the name to Providence International Airport and RIPTA to Providence Metro Transportation Authority (PMTA).

  44. Andrew I September 19, 2014 at 10:31 am #

    one good example of incompetence, mismanagement, or malevolence on the part of Scott Avedisian.

    I dunno, but is he one of those people who are convinced that the only way “Normal” people will see fit to use transit is if we first build them a nice place to park?

  45. Jef Nickerson September 19, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

    I’m not sure how this became the ‘everybody hate on Scott Avedisian’ thread, but I’m not too thrilled about it.

  46. Steve September 19, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

    Agree.

    That certainly was not my interntion. I have known and worked with Scott A for 20 years – he is a frend and nice guy.

    My point is that we need appointments to the leadership of RIAC and RIPTA (and others) of unban core cenered and PVD advocates; for both political and perspective reasons.

    A like minded Governor and appropriate appointments will go a long way in building strategy, funding, and commitment to PVD centered transportation in New England’s second largest metro.

  47. Andrew I September 19, 2014 at 4:40 pm #

    Hey I did not hate, or say he was a crook or not a nice guy. I said I dunno!

    But IF he did not oppose the groupthink that made garages the most expensive component of the states largest ** Transit Expansion Capital Project ** we have evidence of incompetence.

  48. Sam September 19, 2014 at 7:43 pm #

    Who’s hating? I said nothing about Avedusian the man or his character. Don’t know him, never met him. What I said is that he is unfit (and perhaps unqualified) to head RIPTA.

    The topic came up. Can we all agree that the point has been sufficiently made?

  49. Michael September 23, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

    Is the grant void if the plans for the route change?

  50. Jef Nickerson September 23, 2014 at 4:44 pm #

    The project can be modified, but only so much, the money can’t suddenly go to potholes for example.

  51. Michael September 24, 2014 at 2:40 am #

    We should all meet, decide on a better plan, and hand it to the next mayor :). Seriously.

  52. Jason September 24, 2014 at 9:27 am #

    I had a long comment that got eaten on this page about what modifications we should push for.

    I think minimally we should ask that Washington Street in KP is closed to any non-streetcar or BRT traffic. This provides dedicated ROW through roughly 0.5 miles of the route. I would also consider a more sane path through the JD, possibly not spurring out to the Hospital along Dudley which seems silly, especially considering expansion would be down Eddy Street long term (so let’s build that way). I also would prefer if we added approximately 50% to the route length along virtually any of the extensions. That would take you to Olneyville along Westminster or Atwells and out to East Providence continuing on Waterman (without any improvement to JD part that would mean roughly 4 miles rather than 2.5).

    These are routes that are more sustainable and would be a better demonstration over time. I say add rather than take away because the development goals of the project are not going away so the line will be in the JD on the first go no matter what (even if my and I bet other’s on this site would probably prefer an Olneyville to EP line or Valley to Upper South Providence line first, both skirting the JD rather than bisecting it).

    I would also like to know more about how the universities and hospitals will be treated as part of the TIF, whether we can couple the streetcar effort with other strategic development goals for a more complete vision for both transit and development.

    Why not wrap this up in a new goals– 20,000 residents in Downcity/JD in 20 years. This is one way we’re going to make living in Providence more affordable. You won’t need to own a car. Parking tax (or higher TIF rates) in Downcity/JD “zone” that goes one part toward operations but also is put into a capital fund for expansion of the streetcar. What’s the most popular RIPTA line from EP to Providence? Get EP on board to replace that line with rail with upzoning to get another community on board. Get a plan in place that extends streetcar to the Olneyville train station that should get opened along the commuter rail. Use this to activate the Olneyville station without any parking, as well as improve value of the Pawtucket/CF station. Let’s reduce the relevance of the Capital Center station by not pushing everyone directly into Downcity to get out to other parts of Providence.

    This is really not a terrible plan, it’s just incomplete. It’s a little too small and a little too timid about service along the route. Executed within a wider, coherent vision this could just be the tip of a wider, transformative project. Let’s push for that.

  53. Andrew I September 24, 2014 at 10:36 am #

    Yes to what Jason said.

    Want a small modification that yields a big improvement to the plan? Make sure the streetcar does not get stuck in other traffic or have to wait for stoplights. Gonna cost a few parking spaces.

  54. Towne Street November 24, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    Interesting article on similar streetcar projects (specifically Arlington, VA).

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