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Rhode Island Assembly, Speeds Approval for Parking Garage, No Money for Commuter Rail Station

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Location of proposed Garrahy Parking Garage

In wee-hours of Saturday morning, the Rhode Island General Assembly passed a bill to speed the construction of a parking garage in Providence, but failed to provide funding for a proposed commuter rail station in Pawtucket / Central Falls.


The Providence Journal: R.I. House passes bill to speed garage project by Providence courthouse

A bill speeding construction of a $45 million parking garage next to the Garrahy Judicial Complex downtown passed the House Friday night and is one step from clearing the General Assembly.

Requested by the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission to advance a planned life sciences development, the bill would eliminate a requirement that the commission reach agreements to sell three parcels of the property it controls on the former interstate highway land before the garage would be built.

[…]

Instead of requiring three purchase-and-sales agreements on the I-195 land before the garage could be built, the bill would require Wexford/CV to lease at least 400 parking spaces.

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RIPTA Bus Stop Design Guide Public Meetings – June 9, 15, & 20, 2016

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From RIPTA:


The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) is currently developing bus stop design guidelines for use by RIPTA, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, municipalities and others, when roads with RIPTA bus routes are reconstructed or otherwise improved. Your input is valuable in helping shape a “complete streets” approach that enhances transit ridership through guidelines for urban, suburban and rural bus stops.

Three (3) open houses are scheduled in June to provide opportunity for input. Meetings are open to everyone from the general public, transit riders, municipal planning, engineering and public works departments, advocacy groups, A&E consultants, business groups, and developers. Meetings will include information on potential bus stop typologies.

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ProJo: Pawtucket, Central Falls seeking rail station

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Rhode Island is making its strongest push yet for a Pawtucket commuter rail station long-sought by the city and neighboring Central Falls.

The Department of Transportation late last month applied for a $14.5-million federal grant for the project, which would be built between Dexter and Conant Streets and cost an estimated $40 million.

According to the application to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s “TIGER” grant program, the state would contribute $3.6 million to the project and the two cities would combine to chip in another $3 million. The remaining $18.9 million would come from Rhode Island’s annual appropriation of federal transportation dollars.


The station could be completed as soon as late summer 2019, more likely early 2020.

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PBN: RIDOT moves up Providence River pedestrian bridge schedule

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Rendering of the planned Providence River Pedestrian Bridge

The process for building a pedestrian bridge connecting the two sides of the Providence River in the I-195 redevelopment district, will move forward this month, the R.I. Department of Transportation announced Tuesday.

[…]

The construction schedule, described in a recent reporting by the DOT, would have preliminary work beginning in the fall. Construction of the $13.2 million bridge project is expected to span two seasons, with completion anticipated in early 2018.


Yay!

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ProJo: R.I. begins moving on RIPTA bus hub project at Providence Amtrak Station

Rhode Island officials have taken the first small step toward building a multimillion-dollar bus hub at the Providence Amtrak Station, potentially as part of a larger real estate project with a private developer.

On Monday, the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation Board approved hiring Chicago-based real estate company Jones Lang LaSalle to talk to developers, promote the project and help put together bid documents to seek private investment.

[…]

A memo from Commerce Corporation Senior Project Manager Michael Walker given to the Commerce board described Jones Lang Lasalle’s task as: “…to assist with the outreach to the developer community to identify and promote the development opportunity, structure the data requirements that a successful solicitation will require in order to be favorably received by developers, and to draft the Request for Proposals that [the Department of Transportation] will issue to solicit the private investment in this first-of-a kind transit project in Rhode Island.”

I’m all about public/private partnerships, the land around the station is far too valuable to be just a bus station. And bringing in a private developer to team up on this project is the definition of Transit Oriented Development. But boy do I fear concessions to the developer whittling away at the benefits to transit riders that this project could realize.

Please oh please Rhode Island, don’t f*ck it up!

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ProJo: Work on R.I. routes 6-10 a major undertaking for planners

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According to the bid documents released Friday, the 6-10 “conceptual design” consultant will play a central role in figuring out what the state’s “preferred alternative” for 6-10 reconstruction is before helping secure federal environmental approval and, hopefully, federal grants.

Although a surface boulevard plan for 6-10 is not mentioned specifically in the bid documents, one section requires the consultant to study “the traffic impacts along Route 6-10” based on the addition of transit and “a reduction in capacity,” indicating a possible loss of automobile lanes from the current alignment.

Later it says “pedestrian/bicycle flow will also be calculated at key intersections and corridor segments under the future build scenarios. Both positive and negative impacts on traffic will be identified.” The current highway does not allow pedestrians or bicycles and does not have intersections.


The City is hosting a Community Forum on the 6/10 Connector on March 23rd.

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RIFuture.org: Will Providence continue to be a Northeast Corridor rail city?

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Tracks approaching Providence Station

The federal government is considering improvements and changes to train service along the Northeast Corridor rail line that could end up bypassing Providence in favor of Worcester. Here’s how:

NEC FUTURE – a plan for rail investment for the Northeast Corridor,” sponsored by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and as their title indicates, is a program to determine a long-term vision and investment program for the Northeast Corridor (NEC), and to provide a Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Service Development Plan (SDP) in 2016 in support of that vision. The FRA launched NEC FUTURE in February 2012.

February 16, 2016 will be the last day to make comments on the Tier 1 Draft EIS (DEIS) before NEC FUTURE prepares the final document.


Visit RIFuture.org to continue reading Peter Brassard’s in-depth analysis.

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Politico: Obama to propose $10-a-barrel oil tax

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President Barack Obama is about to unveil an ambitious plan for a “21st century clean transportation system.” And he hopes to fund it with a tax on oil.

Obama aides told POLITICO that when he releases his final budget request next week, the president will propose more than $300 billion worth of investments over the next decade in mass transit, high-speed rail, self-driving cars, and other transportation approaches designed to reduce carbon emissions and congestion. To pay for it all, Obama will call for a $10 “fee” on every barrel of oil, a surcharge that would be paid by oil companies but would presumably be passed along to consumers.

There is no real chance that the Republican-controlled Congress will embrace Obama’s grand vision of climate-friendly mobility in an election year—especially after passing a long-stalled bipartisan highway bill just last year—and his aides acknowledge it’s mostly an effort to jump-start a conversation about the future of transportation.

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ProJo: RIPTA turns focus to expansion near Rhode Island Hospital

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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.

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Projo: Providence abandons streetcar plan for new bus line

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Dogged by cost and ridership concerns since it was first proposed nearly 10 years ago by then-Mayor David Cicilline, the proposed streetcar has been abandoned in favor of an “enhanced bus” line along the same route, Providence Planning Director Bonnie Nickerson confirmed Wednesday.

[…]

In a list of future projects the city wants added to the state’s upcoming 10-year transportation plan, the Providence Enhanced Bus Circulator is estimated to cost $20 million.

The proposal asks for $7 million from the state to build the new bus line and uses a $13-million federal grant awarded for the streetcar in 2014 to cover the rest.

[…]

The enhanced bus plan would keep the streetcar’s most recent route: from the Providence train station through downtown and the Jewelry District to Rhode Island Hospital.


I’m sure I have a lot of thoughts and opinions about this which I have neither the time nor the energy to think about right now. However, I wanted to provide a place for others to discuss, one thing to consider when assessing this change in planning is what Providence is asking for in the TIP.

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City of Providence Draft Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) Submission Public Hearing – Today, January 4, 2016

From the City of Providence:


City of Providence Draft Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) Submission available for public review

square-p-01On Monday, January 4, 2016 at 5:30pm, the City of Providence Department of Planning and Development will host a public hearing allowing the general public an opportunity to comment on the municipality’s full Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) submission for federal fiscal years (FFY) 2017 – 2025.

A draft of the City’s full Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) submission for federal fiscal years (FFY) 2017 – 2025 is available for viewing at the front desk of the Department of Planning and Development at 444 Westminster Street, 3rd floor, or online.

The municipality’s TIP submission is a list of transportation projects that are intended to be considered by the State of Rhode Island for implementation using United States Department of Transportation funds. For a transportation project to utilize federal funds it must be included in the TIP. A project’s inclusion in the TIP is a critical step, but it does not represent an allocation of funds, obligation to fund, or grant of funds. Additional information on the TIP process can be found here.

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WPRI: Providence firefighters to offer free rides to residents on New Year’s Eve

Happy New Year’s! Don’t drive drunk!

For the second year in a row, the Providence Fire Fighters IAFF Local 799 will be offering free rides home to anyone in the city on New Year’s Eve.

According to Paul Doughty, the president of the firefighters’ union, the Safe Night service will be offered from 5 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 31, until 7 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 1.

[…]

For a ride, residents should call (401) 272-7999.


Also, if you’re heading to Boston, check out the T schedules, FREE after 8pm!

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Very 21st Century

The Proposed 6/10 Interchange Reconstruction will address the deterioration of existing bridges and aims to reduce congestion and improve travel flow from north to west on the roads spanning from Route 6 to Route 10. The proposed project will include work to Route 6 from the Hartford Avenue interchange to north of the Tobey Street overpass, in addition to Route 10 from the Cranston Viaduct to Route 6. The proposed reconstruction will assess nine of 11 deteriorating bridges that are over 50 years old.


And the BRT gets value engineered out in 3… 2…

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Rhode Island Transit Future: A Strategy for Economic Growth, the Green Way

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Hudson-Bergen Light Rail vehicle operating on the street in Jersey City, NJ. Photo (cc) Wally Gobetz

This post was submitted to Greater City Providence by Roger Leaf.

walkinpvd-iconThere were two important takeaways from last week’s symposium on making mass transit work for Rhode Island. The first, made by Grow Smart RI’s Executive Director, Scott Wolf, was that only 2.7% of Rhode Islanders use public transit, about half the national average, despite being the second most densely populated state. According to the U.S. Census, only 8% of commuters in Providence took public transit in 2010, compared to 33% in Boston, 27% in Cambridge, and 21% in Hartford – even New Haven has 50% more transit commuters than Providence does.

The second key takeaway, made by leaders from the Minneapolis, Denver, and Hartford transit systems, was that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to public transit. Here again, Rhode Island seems out of step, with a bus-only network that only meets the needs of a small percentage of its citizens. With nearly 80% of the state already living within 10-minutes of a transit stop, it seems unlikely that RIPTA will be able to really move the needle on ridership unless it is willing to consider other approaches.

Bus transit offers many benefits: up front costs for infrastructure are low, and rerouting bus routes in response to changing rider demand is relatively easy. But RIPTA’s single-hub bus network hasn’t worked well for Providence. Kennedy Plaza feels like a barren, bus parking lot, adding to congestion and discouraging downtown development, and it is nearly impossible to get from one place in the region to another without passing through Kennedy Plaza. Other modes of transportation have been considered, most notably a downtown streetcar system and BRT along the 6-10 corridor, but both of these are expensive for the limited benefit they provide. In addition to growing its ridership, RIPTA should be looking for new ways to reduce congestion and pollution, to stimulate and support targeted development, make the region more competitive for jobs, and improve the quality of life for all Rhode Islanders. It needs to seriously consider light rail.

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RIPTA Riders Alliance: Suggestions on how to really make transit work

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This post was submitted to Greater City Providence by the RIPTA Riders Alliance.

walkinpvd-iconIn consideration of how to “make transit work,” the subject of the December 1st CTC conference which was to address the relatively low rate of commute-by-transit in Rhode Island, the RIPTA Riders Alliance distributed this list of challenges and possible strategies to deal with them.

Mostly it is about operational and promotional improvements rather than big infrastructure capital projects.


Challenge

1. Lack of operating funds to implement key Strategic Plan goals including increased frequency, route improvements, real-time bus info.

Response

Work with stakeholders, the Governor’s office, and legislators to really establish a funding stream that grows with inflation and need.


Challenge

2. Very inadequate snow removal from bus stops and shelters after storms.

Response

Convene stakeholder group including Governor’s Office, RIDOT, RIPTA, Lamar, municipalities, snowplow operators, police, DPWs, and advocacy groups to work out plans and responsibilities to address this issue.


Challenge

3. Bus trips often slow.

Response

Expand signal priority/green light extension to more key lines (e.g. Chalkstone, Elmwood, Cranston Street, etc); make preloaded smart-cards widely available to speed boarding, with discount incentives for their wide use; investigate BRT opportunities and new express services (e.g. Providence-Pawtucket, Newport limited stops)


Challenge

4. A very significant 30% to 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in the northeast come from transportation, but this is slower to be addressed than energy and commercial sectors.

Response

Addressing climate change is a reason to enhance and promote transit and should be part of the discussion at the task forces that address climate change. Legislation that proposes assessments or taxes on greenhouse emissions should provide funding for public transit operations or infrastructure.


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ProJo: Plans for downtown bus hubs proceeding slowly

Video release last year by RIDOT on future plans for transit in the state.

More than a year after Rhode Island voters overwhelmingly approved a $35-million bond for two new downtown bus hubs, state officials are only now beginning to fill in details of the projects.

The future of the transit hubs was a popular topic at a recent public transportation forum, particularly among Providence business leaders who pushed for them and questioned why so little information about them had been made available.

Bonding for a bus hub at the train station in Providence was approved by voters. The possible sub-hub at the proposed Garrahy Courthouse parking garage is being developed by the Convention Center Authority which has the power to raise its own bonds without voter approval.

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Rhode Island Transit Future: Ideas – Urban Core Light Rail — PRO-TRAM

Multimodal Transportation

Max light rail, bus, and streetcar operating in the street in Portland, Oregon. Photo (cc) Kevin Zolkiewicz

This post was submitted Greater City Providence reader Peter Brassard. If you’ve written something you’d like us to consider posting, please contact us and let us know.
This is fourth of a series on ideas for Rhode Island’s transit future.

walkinpvd-iconRIPTA’s bus hub proposal and bus rerouting for Downtown Providence will produce headways (the time between arrivals) of two to six minutes. Headways for the streetcar are proposed to be ten minutes and the streetcar path would mostly duplicate RIPTA’s proposed Downtown bus route trunk lines.

With RIPTA’s planned improvements, does the streetcar proposal make as much sense now? How might the streetcar or light rail route be modified?

There are officials, members of the transit advocacy community, and the public, who suggest that Rhode Island might only be able to build a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. Creating a BRT system covering most of the urban core would be a tremendous improvement that would complement the existing bus system. However, BRT could be reaching for the low bar and forfeiting greater benefits. Rhode Island might do better and BRT should be viewed as just one option. For this discussion, I will be proposing light rail, but it should be understood that light rail and BRT are interchangeable.

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