Greater City Providence

ProJo: RIPTA turns focus to expansion near Rhode Island Hospital


Rhode Island Hospital area. Image from Bing Maps

Although RIPTA still expects to create a bus stop or stops at Garrahy, transit planners don’t envision a “hub” or terminal there and actually see more potential for expansion farther south, near Rhode Island Hospital.

“Rhode Island Hospital is a huge ridership area for us,” said Amy Pettine, RIPTA’s executive director of planning. “Garrahy emerged as an opportunity, but with the hospital as a key anchor, we will probably need something further south.”

RIPTA is working with the Rhode Island Convention Center Authority, which is building the Garrahy garage, on determining what kind of mass transit presence makes sense, from a regular stop, to a “super stop” with passenger amenities and a place for drivers to take a break.

We need to consider the 195 Land and the Jewelry District as part of downtown. Operationally, I think it could work out better to have hubs on the periphery of downtown (Train Station Hub and Hospital Hub) rather than one on the edge and one kind of in the middle (Garrahy Garage). Hubs on the edge with routes from north and south converging at them allows for through-routing buses on narrowly defined corridors through downtown, creating corridors with high-frequency service.

How service from the east and west tie into this two-hub system operationally will be a planning challenge. One idea would be to run the north-south buses along Washington Street and bring the east-west buses into that same corridor. Allow Washington to become a transit-mall where passengers can make transfers between east-west and north-south lines. For example, someone from Olneyville who works at the Hospitals could ride a Broadway bus into Washington Street then make a transfer to one of the many buses running south to the Hospital Hub. The transfer time could be less than 5 minutes with the need only being to catch any southbound bus, not waiting for a specific bus that goes to the hospital.

Kennedy Plaza would also remain a critical transfer point. With the hubs on the edge of Downtown however, buses should not need to layover in Kennedy Plaza, they’ll be able to do that at the hubs. This would reduce congestion of both buses and waiting passengers in the Plaza.

For the Hospital Hub, improvements need to be made to the pedestrian environment in the area, from the southern end of the Jewelry District, under the highways to the Hospitals south to CCRI and over to the Prairie Street neighborhood. That whole catchment area needs to be able to easily walk to the hub to access the high frequency service that will carry passengers north into the downtown. The same holds true for the Train Station Hub.

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • I’ll note one reason there is transit demand in the hospital district is the lack of free parking for most. Where there is lots of free parking, such as at Miriam or Fatima hospitals, there is little transit demand. Anyone serious about building a transit system actually be used en masse beyond the poverty groups and some environmentalists has to take parking policy into account, especially as the powers that be are investing so much in providing parking, even in the city from the State House lawn to Garrahy to Thayer St, to URI….

  • A hub in the hospital area makes more sense than Garrahy. Location and route will be critical. The Davol Square intersection isn’t easy to cross in any direction. Eddy Street below Allens Avenue has serious traffic congestion much of the day. It’s not unusual to wait two or three traffic light cycles to get past the 95 overpass and in front of Rhode Island Hospital. Since the streetcar is dead and RIDOT still owns the triangle of land under the Iway ramps at Eddy Street and Allens Avenue where the streetcar service yard was supposed to go, maybe that triangle could become the bus hub for the district?

  • No offense, Peter, but that sounds awful. Let’s put a bus hub in the middle of a pedestrian dead zone. No thanks.

    I like Jef’s idea of approaching the hospitals from the north/west. Look at the tight grid of residences there! The bus hub should be there, close to the people who would actually use it. With pedestrian amenities, yes.

    Wasn’t there, at some point, talk of a west side bus hub in the area of the Public Safety complex?

  • Good point, but the cars and traffic congestion aren’t going away, a least anytime soon.

    Crossing Point Street at Davol Square on Eddy is probably solvable with priority signaling. The big problem is how to penetrate the Route 95, “Chinese wall,” which creates an overpass pinch point at Eddy Street.The cartway (or road width between the curbs) on Eddy at route 95 is only about 34-feet. There’s not enough room to create exclusive bus lanes.

    A possibility might be for the bus trunk route to follow from Eddy to Allens Avenue. Allens Avenue has four lanes, two of which could be made exclusive bus lanes. From Allens Avenue to bus truck route could follow Blackstone Street potentially to Dudley Street. There is currently a parking lot, which was part of abandoned exit ramp, at end of Dudley adjacent to 95 and Blackstone. Could that location could become a transit hub?

  • Make the Eddy street underpass one way southbound plus 2 bus lanes. Route northbound traffic to Allens Ave via Public, Blackstone, and if necessary, a new underpass at Dudley Street.

    Besides shortening bus trips by 10 or more minutes, vehicular traffic flow will improve by eliminating the northbound 3 lanes into 2 merge where Eddy meets Allens. Left turns onto Allens from Public and Blackstone streets do not have to share a phase with oncoming traffic.

    Convenience for emergency vehicles seems to be a trump card in other quarrels over parking, street widths, plowing etc. – even when it makes no sense. Remember the fights about overnight parking? Let’s use it as well: Ambulances will be able to make faster trips in the bus lanes! Lives are at stake!

    The #1 bus should be rerouted down Hope to Wickenden to Point street with a timed transfer for downtown at Angell/Waterman. If a bus trip from East Side to RI Hospital took half as long as a car trip you might even see the occasional doctor on a bus.

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