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Reader Rant: Urban design by traffic engineers

olneyville 001

Update: This project was done by the City without the involvement of RIDOT, which makes the entire situation worse actually.

Urban Design by RIDOT! Was the City complicit? I’m almost at a loss for words about the thoughtlessness in locating a new traffic signal control box within a public plaza in Olneyville Square. If this happened in Wayland Square instead, there would be protest demonstrations. The photos speak for themselves regarding alignment and adjacencies to building frontages and the information kiosk. How many 10′s of thousands or dollars did they spend on this piece of junk? Is this urban design by traffic engineers? This is as bad as when they place signal arm pole bases in the center of sidewalks so that people have to walk in the street. There should be a law against this. Or better yet the Design Review Commission should review all RIDOT installations within the City. Since Olneyville is a less affluent neighborhood, I suppose we should expect this new control box to sit where it is for the next 40 or 50 years. I guess the consolation is that there are new fake old streetlights.

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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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Barry Schiller: Providence Streetcar on Life Support?

Dark Road

Photo (cc) José Mamona

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.

I could be wrong, but it seems to me that prospects for building the proposed College Hill – Hospitals/South Providence streetcar, a $127 million project, are fading.

RIPTA itself has clearly stated they won’t fund the project out of their existing revenue stream, already inadequate for maintaining its bus system. Their initial proposal for the next four year TIP (Transportation Improvement Program) being developed did suggest $2.5 million in FY2013 for the streetcar’s next phase of preliminary engineering an design. This is only about 1/3 the cost, the rest to be paid for by someone else. But since expected capital funds were inadequate for their original plan, RIPTA then modified this proposal to allocate only $1.5 million on streetcar design spread out later over 2014 and 2015. RIPTA understandably does not want to spend any more money on this unless the political process comes up with a funding source to design, build, and operate the streetcar. Indeed it seems there must be a financial plan to do this to get any more Federal dollars for this project. But the city of Providence, its big institutions, local property owners, and the state and Federal governments are all under financial stress and I see little prospect that any of them will step up to pay for the streetcar in any big way.

My take on the streetcar at last week’s RIPTA Board meeting is that RIPTA leaders expect to conclude the corridor study by selecting the streetcar as the locally preferred alternative, but then it will likely just sit there until there is a funding mechanism. Further diminishing its prospects is the resignation of Thomas Deller, as Chair of the RIPTA Board of Directors, which removes the foremost streetcar advocate from a position of leadership at RIPTA.

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Barry Schiller: Pawtucket’s misguided decision to close the Visitor’s Center

pawtucket

Image from Google Streetview

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.

Have you heard that Pawtucket officials are “doing away with Pawtucket’s RIPTA bus hub?” This was reported in the 11/29 Valley Breeze.

The article indicates that Pawtucket officials believe passengers hanging around at this hub near the Visitors Center are interfering with their hopes for downtown redevelopment. But their proposal is likely to result in passengers losing an indoor waiting room, with access to heat, seating, bathrooms, travel information, and security. Though buses will still stop in downtown Pawtucket and RIPTA has not yet worked out alternative service, closing this facility would likely make passengers have to stand around outdoors, even in the snow, cold and dark that comes at winter and at night. Further, “spreading the service” out among other nearby bus stops, as mentioned in the article, could make it harder to transfer. Passengers may have to wait at isolated locations which are perceived to be less safe.

It is ironic that this comes at a time when RIPTA is investing in enhancing service on the #99 Pawtucket-Providence line.

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Like: A train station with working clocks

Clocks

The whole train station is now all in the same time zone. Image submitted by Cliff Wood.

There is a very good reason why train stations have clocks, it is so you can know how long you have before your train arrives. So the fact that each clock on the clock tower at the Providence Train Station has displayed a different time for the better part of forever has been a terrible embarrassment.

So thank goodness, the clocks are finally fixed. The above photo was sent in from Cliff Wood at 9 o’clock this morning. This is almost as exciting as when the escalators were finally fixed.

Hooray!

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Reimagining of Providence Station by Jonathan Winslow

A couple months I Rebooted Providence Station. Shortly after that, Portland, Oregon based architect Jonathan Winslow forwarded me the plan he did for the station area while he was a student at RISD.

Jonathan Winslow

On his website you can see that Jonathan’s plan is a complete re-imagining of the existing train station. The new station features an atrium allowing light to reach down to the railroad platforms, an attached hotel, expanded restaurant and retail space, visitor information, new ticket booths, expaned waiting areas, and more.

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Dislike: Walking in the street

Photo by Andy Morris

Yes, everytime I run into someone downtown they say, “are you going to write about the sidewalks on Washington Street?”

Truth is, I’m totally avoiding Washington Street if I can help it. A bunch of things are conspiring to result in there often being no sidewalk on either side of Washington Street.

One thing is good, we like it, new sidewalks are being installed, yay! However, when work is being done on a sidewalk, there needs to be a place for people to go, either make pedestrians cross if there is no room, or block off a secion of the road.

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Tighter parking enforcement but fewer points of collection

New parking regulations on meter in Providence.

A reader points out to us, while the city has tightened parking regulations, expanded meter collection times, and increased parking rates, the parking meter itself is becoming somewhat of an endangered species in the city.

Missing parking meters on Ship Street in Providence.

The above photo shows what I guess we could call the Ship Street Extension, where Eddy loops around under where the highway used to be. There are 9 or ten parking spaces here, but only three meters remaining. Vandals, errant 195 removal equipment, who knows. There’s also 15 or so parking spaces on Dean Street where it was rebuilt between Atwells and Spruce Street where there are meter posts, but no meters on top of them. I’m sure there are examples of this throughout town.

I don’t know how long it takes a new meter to pay for itself, or even how much a meter might cost, but if we didn’t have this dearth of functional meters where parking is supposed to be paid, then perhaps the additional collections realized from that would allow us to not have to have paid parking on Saturdays, or at the very least, it could go further towards closing our budget gap.

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