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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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New 2-way traffic flow starting Downtown on Friday

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Get your lawn chairs and set-up your viewing spot in Biltmore Park. If past is prologue on Empire Street, introduction of two-way traffic on Dorrance Street and Exchange Terrace should be fun to watch.

Press Release from the City of Providence:


New Traffic Patterns for Downtown Providence Streets

PROVIDENCE, RI – Drivers will see a new traffic pattern on multiple streets downtown with the completion of Phase 3 of the Downtown Providence Traffic Circulation Improvements.

Traffic will become two-way traffic the second half of Exchange Terrance as well as Dorrance Street, from Fountain Street to Washington Street.

The new traffic pattern will take effect starting Friday December 4, 2015 and will be indicated by signage.

The Downtown Providence Traffic Circulation Improvements are designed to have traffic flow more freely while creating more space for bikers and pedestrians to travel safely.


No word on when the section of Empire from Fountain Street to Broadway in LaSalle Square is turning 2-way yet.

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Both RIPTA and MBTA will serve Wickford Junction Station starting December 7, 2015

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Wickford Junction Station. Photo from RIDOT

Press release from RIDOT:


RIDOT and RIPTA Providing More Transit Choices from Wickford Junction Transit Center

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) and the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) today announced the expansion of bus service to the Wickford Junction Transit Center in North Kingstown. Effective Monday, December 7, 2015, this move will provide one-stop consolidated transit services, including rail, bus, and carpooling for commuting and easy access to shopping, sports, and other entertainment activities in Providence and Boston.

“Improving service and reducing operating costs at Wickford Junction has been a major focus of attention at RIDOT, and we are pleased to provide these changes with the assistance of our partners at RIPTA to make the station a full-featured transit hub for South County,” RIDOT Director Peter Alviti Jr. said. “With trains and buses under one roof, commuters have more options for transit and can avoid the hassle of rush hour and costly parking in Providence and Boston.”

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Rhode Island Transit Future: Ideas – Commuter Rail – RI-TRAIN

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Morton Street Station on the Fairmont Line in Boston. Photo (cc) Pi.1415926535

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 third of a series on ideas for Rhode Island’s transit future.

walkinpvd-iconUnfortunately, TF Green Airport and Wickford Junction Stations are still not doing well, only attracting about 400 passengers per day each partly because of marginal service.

The state needs to start the Rhode Island instate train as soon as possible. Infill RIPTA buses should be looked at as a temporary solution.

The following diagram revises my commuter rail or shuttle train proposal from 2012. I reduced the stops from the 2012 plan and am proposing that all MBTA trains to and from Boston originate or terminate at Providence Station.

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Rhode Island Transit Future: Ideas – Late Night Bus Routes – RIPTA-24

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RIPTA bus at night. Photo (cc) .sanden.

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 second of a series on ideas for Rhode Island’s transit future.

walkinpvd-iconIn recent articles and comments to posts, people have suggested that RIPTA might do better if it offered 24-hour service. Twenty-four hour transit would serve a population that is generally forced to drive, which includes nighttime service workers, hospital employees, restaurant, bar and nightclub goers, and travelers.

I started looking at what night service might look like, but before this Boston Globe article came out about the MBTA late night service being on the chopping block.

Regarding the Boston area transit system, besides being more extensive than Rhode Island’s, they have the challenge of providing both nighttime bus and subway service. With the subway the costs go up dramatically, especially if trains are mostly empty. The Providence area is nowhere as complicated as in Boston, so a simpler strategy is possible for providing an affordable late night service.

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Rhode Island Transit Future: Ideas – BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) – PRO-BUS

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TransMilenio – Heroes station in Bogotá, Colombia. Photo (cc) Jorge Láscar

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.
The Coalition for Transportation Choices (CTC) with the collaboration and assistance of Grow Smart RI will present on Tuesday, December 1st NEXT STOP: Making Transit Work for Rhode Island, a forum for business, civic and political leaders—together with transit riders.

The following is the first of a series of articles meant to encourage thought and discussion on Rhode Island mass transit issues. I will try to offer perspective on several transit modes, as well as suggest potential strategies for improving transit in the state. I urge others to put their own ideas forward and to comment and improve upon mine.

walkinpvd-iconThe primary issues for Rhode Island mass transit are:

  • Travel times
  • Frequency of service
  • Negative cultural perception of transit
  • Limited funding

The first topic, which follows, is on BRT (Bus Rapid Transit).

BRT is the use of buses using mostly exclusive right-of-ways to increase travel speed and reduce delays. The system features stations with platforms. Fare payment occurs within the station or elsewhere, but not on the bus. Generally, when a bus enters a station, multiple doors open to speed up the boarding process for passengers exiting or entering.

The state is interested in exploring the possibility of incorporating BRT routes as a part of the Olneyville Expressway replacement. Others, as well as myself, have suggested downgrading the highway(s) to a boulevard, similar to what has been done with the West Side Highway in New York and the Presidio in San Francisco.

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NEXT STOP: Making Transit Work for Rhode Island – December 1, 2015

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Coalition for Transportation Choices to host forum on making transit work for more Rhode Islanders.

From Grow Smart RI:


Transit forum will examine lessons learned in Denver, Minneapolis and Hartford as local officials explore how to make transit work for more Rhode Islanders

Nearly 80% of Rhode Island’s population lives within a 10-minute walk of a transit stop. Still, only about 2.7% of the state’s population uses transit regularly. It’s something of a “chicken or egg” conundrum since service must first be robust, convenient and frequent enough to attract would-be riders.

In collaboration with the Coalition for Transportation Choices (CTC), Grow Smart RI is helping to present NEXT STOP: Making Transit Work for Rhode Island, a forum for business, civic and political leaders – together with transit riders – on Tuesday, December 1, 2015, 8:30-11:30 a.m. at the Rhode Island Convention Center.

Featured speakers will include those involved in advancing popular transit services in Minneapolis, Denver and Hartford. A local leaders panel will then examine the challenges and opportunities for making transit work for more Rhode Islanders, saving time and money for commuters, while contributing to the revitalization of urban and town centers and reducing congestion and greenhouse gas emissions.

Concepts and priorities discussed will help to inform a detailed 10-year proposal for transforming our state’s transit system a catalyst for sustainable economic growth.

For more information and to register for this free event, visit Grow Smart RI.
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RIPTA New Fare Structure Public Hearings

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From RIPTA:


Notice of Public Hearings on Proposed Adoption of New Fare Structure and Reduced Fare Pass Bus Program Regulation

Pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 39-18-4 of Rhode Island General Laws and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Board of Directors of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) hereby gives notice of its intent to hold public hearings on a proposed new fare structure.

The Board also hereby gives notice, in accordance with the Administrative Procedures Act, Rhode Island General Laws, Chapter 42-35, of its intent to hold public hearings on a proposed new Reduced Fare Bus Pass Program regulation.

The proposed fare structure and a concise statement of the non-technical differences between the existing Reduced Fare Bus Pass Program and the proposed Program are available for public inspection at 705 Elmwood Avenue, Providence, RI, or by email at mditoro@ripta.com, or by phone at (401) 784-9500 ex. 171.

In development of the proposed Reduced Fare Bus Pass Program, consideration was given to (1) alternative approaches; (2) overlap or duplication with other statutory and regulatory provisions; and (3) significant economic impact on small business. No alternative approach, duplication, or overlap was identified based upon available information.

All interested parties are invited to submit written or oral comments concerning the proposed fare structure or the proposed Reduced Fare Bus Pass Program by December 1, 2015. Comments may be sent to RIPTA, Office of the CEO, 705 Elmwood Avenue, Providence, RI, 02907. Comments may also be sent by email to marketing@ripta.com or made by phone to (401) 784-9500 ex. 101.

The public hearings will address changes to the Reduced Fare Bus Pass Program, the discontinuation and replacement of RIPTIKs and 15 Ride Passes, introduction of new products and the following proposed fare increases:

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ProJo: Raimondo pushes out managers, dismisses employees at ‘dysfunctional’ DOT

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Image from RIDOT

Having diagnosed Rhode Island’s transportation bureaucracy as “dysfunctional,” Governor Raimondo Wednesday outlined the steps she’s taking to fix it — with or without revenue from proposed truck tolls.

In an overhaul of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation that started earlier this year, Raimondo said she has pushed out several managers, adopted private-sector planning processes and begun hiring workers to reduce the agency’s reliance on outside contractors.

RIDOT has also either dismissed or accepted the resignation of “four or five” unidentified employees for “dishonesty,” including false record keeping and not being where they said they were, according to Director Peter Alviti.


I don’t have anything nice to say about RIDOT so I won’t say anything at all.

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