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→ 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 WPRI.com 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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Transportation Corridors to Livable Communities Project Community Meeting, May 14th

RIPTA

Photo (cc) Trisha Crabb

Community Meeting – Transportation Corridors to Livable Communities Project – North Main Street

The City of Providence and the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) invite you to share your thoughts on the future of North Main Street.

Rochambeau Library, 708 Hope Street
Monday, May 14th, 2012 – 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM
(Presentation at 6:00 PM followed by open house)

  • How is RIPTA improving bus stop locations, bus shelters, and bus service?
  • What is RIPTA’s new R-Line (Rapid Bus) service?
  • What improvements are coming? (bus shelters, trash cans, bicycle racks, wayfinding signage, public art)
  • Where should community hubs and gateways be located?
  • What services and businesses would you like to see at community hubs?

A 72-hour notice is required for persons with sensory impairment requiring auxiliary aids. To request this service, please contact the RIPTA Customer Service Manager at 401-784-9500 x183.

For more information, please contact Martina Haggerty, Project Coordinator or visit the Transportation Corridors to Livable Communities project website.

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Barry Schiller: On the Draft New 4-Year TIP – Public Hearing April 26

Providence Viaduct

Underneath the Providence Viaduct. Photo © RIDOT

Barry Schiller, a retired Rhode Island College math professor, is a long-time member of the State Planning Council’s Transportation Advisory Committee. He also was on the RIPTA Board of Directors 1995-1999.

The draft 2013-2016 RI Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), a plan to spend about $1.1 billion, has been released by Statewide Planning. In print, it is at least 120 pages! This is because it includes a description of the process, analysis of financing, environmental justice, air quality, its various program components (such as bridge, Interstate, transit, safety) and a detailed compilation of the various funding sources. Despite some uncertainty about future legislation, it essentially assumes level Federal funding.

My overall assessment is that it basically continues current policies: improving infrastructure through the bridge (about $42 million/year) and pavement management programs ($30 million/yr); finishing major projects; traffic safety (e.g. striping, signalization $31 million/yr;) transit ($46 million/year.) There is little system expansion.

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Core Connector Study public Open Houses in November

Streetcar on Washington Street

Photo simulation of a streetcar on Washington Street.

RIPTA & the City of Providence Will Hold Three Open Houses to Hear Feedback on Proposed Streetcar Route

RIPTA and the City of Providence are nearing completion of the Providence Core Connector Study, a year-long effort to evaluate the costs and benefits of a potential new transit route through Downtown, College Hill, and Upper South Providence.

The project aims to better integrate the downtown core with our statewide and regional public transportation systems, encourage economic development, improve access to key employment centers, and strengthen neighborhoods, while supporting a high quality of life.

In September 2011, RIPTA and the City announced their recommendation for a new streetcar route connecting Upper South Providence with College Hill. This 2.5-mile route would connect over 6,700 households, 50,000 employees, and 25,000 students enrolled at five universities. It would serve Kennedy Plaza, the state’s largest transit hub, and pass within walking distance of the Convention Center, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, three major theaters, and more than 2,100 hotel rooms. It would also serve the Knowledge District and developable land made available through the relocation of I-195.

Three public Open Houses will be held to solicit public opinion on this proposal:

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Streetcars: The train station is out, but that’s OK

Providence Core Connector

Providence Streetcar proposed between College Hill and Prairie Avenue

The latest Core Connector (Streetcar) study document can be found here. [.pdf]

The main question that has been at issue with the Core Connector alignment is how to serve both the train station and College Hill at the northern end while maintain frequent service between those points and the Hospital District at the southern. If northbound trains split with every other one going to the train station or the Hill, then that would degrade the service frequency to each location.

Several options were explored, one would have had a shuttle running between the train station and Kennedy Plaza where passengers would be able to connect to the main line streetcars heading to College Hill and the Hospitals. That would be a major investments to carry passengers the 4 blocks between the two and would not address the fact that passengers are forced to make another connection along their trip.

Another option was to send the streetcars to the train station but not College Hill. College Hill would be served by other conventional bus services and passengers would make a connection at Kennedy Plaza to the streetcar. The issue here is that the expected passenger load to and from the train station will be confined to rush hours.

There are trains serving the station throughout the day, but mainly it will be commuters. College Hill will have commuters but will also have Brown and RISD students, staff, and faculty traveling downtown and the Jewelry and Hospital Districts. Economic development in the Jewelry District will likely for the near future be tied to academia, especially Brown. A direct connection to College Hill will serve more people more often.

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Providence Subway!?

Check out this map posted in our Flickr Group by pdxcityscape:

Proposed Providence Subway Map - 1914

Visit the Flickr Page to see a larger version.

That’s a plan for a streetcar system with central subway for Providence from 1914. pdxcityscape writes on Flickr:

Proposed Providence Subway Map – 1914

Imagine Providence now if this was built…

Around the time that the East Side Streetcar (now Bus) Tunnel opened was a plan to expand it into a larger streetcar subway system in Providence running west to Olneyville, east to Red Bridge/Seekonk River, north to the North Burial Ground on North Main and south to Broad and Elmwood. The four subway branch lines would consolidate onto a single main trunk line between Dorrance and Benefit Streets, streetcar lines would run in the subway tunnels in the core then emerge outside downtown to finish their routes on the surface. The proposal went nowhere in 1914, it reemerged in the 1920s but again went nowhere, then because automania had taken over and the focus was on building new wide streets.

From ‘Engineering News’ March 19, 1914 (available on Google Books: search “Providence Subway Olneyville”)

WHY DIDN’T WE DO THAT!!!?

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REBOOT: Providence Train Station

Schematic for a redesigned Providence Train Station area.

Click image to enlarge

REBOOT is an occasional series of posts on GC:PVD where we identify areas of the city that display poor urbanism and propose ways to improve them. Our interventions may be simple and quite easily realized, or they may at times be grand and possibly take years or decades to complete. Either way, we hope they generate interest and discussion.

Oh Providence Station… why are you such a dump?

Of course the short answer to that is that we have not taken care of it. But this post is not about the sad condition of the station, it is about the fact that the station was a mistake to begin with.

Of course we used to have the stunning Union Station which is now the home of the Rhode Island Foundation and other offices. The river and railroad relocation projects resulted in the tracks leaving Union Station behind and a new station being built.

When Providence Station was opened in 1986 we were deep in the heart of the automobile age. Gas supplies were cheap and seemingly inexhaustible, Amtrak was kind of a quaint hobby that we north-easterners insisted on keeping in service, and the MBTA did not reach Providence. This resulted in a station that is too small for our post-$4/gallon gasoline world. A station that is inconveniently located away from the city’s major employment centers (and with the removal of Route 195, the city’s employment centers are poised to move further from the train station).

Were it maintained properly, the station is certainly handsome. The clock tower nicely pierces the skyline, the low slung dome is handsome and adds a modern bent to the collection of domes we have in our fair city, the interior is attractive. However, the interior is not spacious enough for the passengers we have utilizing existing MBTA and Amtrak services, and the station will become more crowded as MBTA services expand southward and if a Blackstone Valley commuter service is ever instituted. And as the price of gas continues its generally upward trend, more and more people will turn to the trains.

Let’s not waste time blaming the planners from the 80′s for their shortsightedness on the station’s design, let’s instead consider what we can do to modify it for a world that is very different from 1986.

Bret wrote a post a couple years ago in which he cited me as referring to the station as a hundred-year mistake. He went on to highlight some of the short comings of Capital Center area as a neighborhood, and suggest some solutions. We were to write a Part II to that post and never got around to it, this is that Part II I suppose.

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I want it all


Photo (cc) CCCPxokkeu

The Woonsocket Patch has news this week about State Rep. Lisa Baldelli Hunt’s desire to see commuter rail service re-established to Woonsocket. Woonsocket has a rich rail history which formerly connected the city to Providence, Worcester, Hartford, and Boston. Sadly, the last passenger trains departed Woonsocket in the 1960s.

Badeli Hunt would like to see rail service return to Woonsocket and has asked Senator Reed to secure federal transportion funds, which were rejected by Florida’s Governor, and bring those funds to Rhode Island for Woonsocket commuter rail service.

“In addition to putting existing resources to better use, taking cars off a congested route, and better enabling northern Rhode Islanders to access employment and other opportunities in Providence, a commuter rail would undoubtedly have a positive impact on Main Street, Woonsocket, bringing commuters who will be looking for the convenience of nearby shopping, dining and other services,” said Baldelli Hunt (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket) in the letter, a copy of which, her offices report, was also sent to the governor.

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Providence Core Connector Study Survey

The Providence Core Connector Study is seeking input from those who live, work, visit, or go to school in downtown Providence, College Hill, and Upper South Providence. A brief survey is available through May 13th.

If you have a moment, please take a few minutes to complete this survey about your travel patterns and current and potential transit usage. The results of the survey will help the study team make key decisions regarding the potential operations plan for enhanced transit service in the downtown area.

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