Greater City Providence

Next Stop: Making Transit Work for RI with Jarrett Walker

Last month, Grow Smart Rhode Island invited transportation expert Jarrett Walker to Providence for a transportation forum.

Jarrett Walker shares his observations about Rhode Island’s transit system, how it compares with other metros its size and offer some preliminary recommendations for shaping a system that gets more Rhode Islanders – and visitors – where they need to go when they need to get there, conveniently, quickly and affordably. We’ll hear how RIPTA and other public transit agencies are adapting to and leveraging new technologies and how some are partnering with the private sector to extend their reach or to create new transit-oriented development that helps to pay for transit improvements and operations.

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.


  • “Jarrett Walker shares his observations about Rhode Island’s transit system, how it compares with other metros its size…”

    That’s very good, but Rhode Island is not a metro. There is the Providence Metro – all of Rhide Island and southeastern Massachusetts – and THAT should be the frame of reference.

    God, this “Rhode Iskand mentality” is going to be its cause of death.

  • I remember that being addressed at the forum. There are a lot of complications of having a state line cutting off a third of our metro area.

  • Walker and others were well aware of regional considerations, especially with regard to the MBTA
    as a big deal was made about a Pawtucket commuter rail stop.
    My takeaways from Walker: density matters, that’s where transit will work, in sprawl its mainly just a lifeline for a few; incremental improvements are important, they tip a few to use transit, they tell their friends/associates, which could generate other riders and thus more improvements; price signals are important, employers should have some responsibility to level the incentives between “free” parking and transit use (he noted CA has a mandate for large employers to have an employee commute trip reduction plan)

    All these factors are not encouraging for RIPTA. Density is resisted, even in Providence, and some significant employers (Citizens Bank, Neighborhood Health, and even some state agencies) move to sprawl locations; RIPTA ridership has dropped significantly (from over 21 million riders/ year at this decade’s peak to maybe 17 million this year so we may be on a down cycle, while RIPTA has few resources to make improvements. And, we have relatively high fares for those that pay and as can be seen from very low “Ecopass” revenue, employers are doing little to encourage transit use. This includes the state which has ignored a law still on the books that requires DOA to plan and implement a state employee trip reduction policy.
    Despite this, Grow Smart is to be commended for not giving up on transit and what it can do for the cities, and to help protect the countryside, and the environment.
    There is a House Finance oversight hearing on RIPTA coming Wed 4/12, perhaps there will be some indications of dealing with this issue.

  • As a new comer who has seen the Portland Metro go from a city devastated by the loss of its one main industry (timber) to the incredible city it is. Over the same time we have only seen a few bits and starts with my new home (which I love!).

    This presentation….this guys focus…shows us all that we have been doing wrong in this area. We have spent 4 decades getting distracted and have not been able to focuse on fixing what has been broken. Hopefully this will spark conversation and vision that will FIT Providence’s needs.

    I keep saying it in other discussions….Providence is where Portland was. Now we are lucky because we DON’T have to reinvent the wheel and can make sure we don’t fall to some of the negatives problems….like being too successful and economically diverse….which leads to a very healthy economical situation, but we can make sure we make sure to keep this metro affordable.

    P.S. I lived three years in Houston, in the pre-transit realignment he was involved it. I was a horrendous system. Have heard from those who are transit oriented that this system is a huge improvement. Let’s take a chance to make Rhode Island’s Public transit head over heals better than it is now.

  • Providence is where Portland was? Providence is the 2nd largest city in New England and Portland isn’t even in the Top 30.

  • Transit advocates should note that in attempt to both mitigate horrendous traffic and call attention to our commuter rail stops, RIDOT is partnering with the MBTA to provide free train service from Providence (trains leave 8am, 10am, 12:15 for Quonset) TF Green (trains stop there 16 minutes later) and Wickford Jct to the Quonset Air Show. Returns to Providence leave Quonset 1:15, 3:10, 5:15, 6pm, full info on RIDOT web site.
    Another cooperative effort is the Bike to Work Day celebration in Burnside Park Fri May 19 7 to 10am with help of the City of Providence, RIPTA, the RI Bike Coalition, and others.
    Another good thing RIDOT is doing is partnering with Amtrak and Sea Streak to market a one ticket product for a train ride to Providence, a RIPTA shuttle to the Providence ferry landing, and a ferry ride to Newport. Ferry service this year begins June 16.
    This seems to me to indicate it should be possible to have train-bus tickets to Newport all year using the frequent #60 line. RIPTA is about to buy a new farebox system, I hope its compatible with other systems.

  • A lot of adjustments for RIPTA’s summer service changes:

    Interlining is returning. Both Westminster Street routes will be interlined with the 32/33/34 East Providence routes for one seat rides serving Olneyville Square, Thayer Street, and Wayland Square. Also, the Route 18 Union Street bus will be interlined with the Route 40 Elmgrove Ave bus.

    Kennedy Plaza stops A, E, and F and being eliminated and consolidated into stops along Fulton and Washington Streets. RIPTA also states that they will reduce the dwell time of buses at KP.

    Route 58 Mineral Spring Ave bus will now serve RI Hospital weekdays.

    Weekend and holiday beach bus returns.

    New route 91Ferry Shuttle service from Providence Station via KP.

    Weekend McCoy Stadium Shuttle service from Federal Hill via Broadway, KP, Eastside Tunnel, and Hope Street.

Providence, RI
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Feels like: 52°F
Wind: 15mph N
Humidity: 93%
Pressure: 29.93"Hg
UV index: 3
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