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OK, let’s talk about the snow

Providence, 1st Snow Storm of 2007

Atwells Avenue at the Service Road, Friday morning December 14th.

In case you weren’t aware of it, it snowed last Thursday. Depending on who’s counting we got between 7 inches and a foot in Providence, substantial, but this it New England right? Maybe not. Traffic was gridlocked Thursday afternoon and into the night. Kids were trapped on buses, cars were abandoned on area highways, bread and milk were endangered species… Can I just say, what the hell happened?

Yes, the city and state were completely out-to-lunch, yes people should be fired, but seriously folks, come on. It was a little snow storm, we need the state to rescue us? What happened to us? I traveled from the East Side to Federal Hill on Thursday evening, and what I saw was a lot of selfish people, blocking intersections, ignoring red lights, driving down streets the wrong way… Traffic control regulations remain in effect when snow is falling.

Don’t get me wrong, I blame the state and city for a poor response, but we need to take some personal responsibility for ourselves here. Its been snowing in New England for thousands of years and until recently, we were able to deal with it on our own with a little help from our elected officials and civil servants.

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GC: Exchange – Tuesday, May 8, 2007

transit2020_logoQuick reminder, the Greater City: Exchange is Tuesday, May 8th starting at 5:30pm at Jewel Cafe & Lounge 15 Elbow Street in the Jewelry District.

At the GC: Exchange we will be viewing a presentation and having a discussion on the Transit 2020 Report. We’ll also be enjoying drinks, eats, and will have plenty of time to meet and speak with others.

If you were planning on attending the CPC Meeting Tuesday at Meeting Street School, unplan because it has be postponed. We’re all happy it’s been postponed, because now we all get to go!

Also, mark your calendars for our June GC: Exchange. On Tuesday, June 12th we’ll be meeting at Ada’s Creations, 1137 Broad Street in Elmwood. In June, we’ll be hearing from members of the Greater Elmwood Neighborhood Services about the work they do in the Elmwood area. Visit our website for updates and more details on the June GC: Exchange.


Next GC: Exchange – Tuesday, May 8, 2007

2007-0508_GCExchange_webThe next Greater City: Exchange will be Tuesday, May 8th starting at 5:30pm at Jewel Cafe & Lounge, 15 Elbow Street in the Jewelry District.

Please join us for open discussion about the city. Hors d’Å“uvres will be provided by Jewel. Our special guest will be Garry Bliss, Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs for the City of Providence. Garry will be presenting information about the findings of the Transit 2020 working group. After the presentation we will have time to discuss issues related to transit in Rhode Island.

You may read the Transit 2020 report here.

The June GC: Exchange will be held on Tuesday, June 12th, where we plan to have members of Greater Elmwood Neighborhood Services discuss their organization and the work that they do.

The July GC: Exchange will be held on Tuesday, July 10th.

For exact times and locations of upcoming GC: Exchanges please visit our website or sign up for our Newsletter.


Bret discusses Transit 2020 on “The City”

This month Greater City Providence’s Vice President, Bret Ancowitz appears on The City, Mayor Cicilline’s cable access television show. Also appearing are Scott Wolf, Executive Director, Grow Smart RI and Garry Bliss, Director of Policy, City of Providence.

The topic of conversation was the recently released Transit 2020 Report. We look forward to having Garry at our next GC: Exchange meeting on May 8th to discuss Transit 2020.

You can view the show below or catch it on TV at the following times:

Channel 18 – Providence/Kent County area
Thursdays 10:00pm / Fridays 9:00am

Channel 15 – (Interconnect C) Statewide
Mondays at 6:30pm / Wednesdays 8:30pm

The show runs throughout the month of April



Image Carlos Lorenzo

One of the key ingredients of an urban neighborhood is its walkability, the ease of walking from your home to almost everything you could possibly need or want to do outside of it. Walkable Communities, Inc. is an organization that assists towns and cities in creating more walkable and pedestrian friendly communities. They were founded on the following premise:

Walkability is the cornerstone and key to an urban area’s efficient ground transportation. Every trip begins and ends with walking. Walking remains the cheapest form of transport for all people, and the construction of a walkable community provides the most affordable transportation system any community can plan, design, construct, and maintain. Walkable communities put urban environments back on a scale for sustainability of resources (both natural and economic) and lead to more social interaction, physical fitness and diminished crime and other social problems. Walkable communities are more liveable communities and lead to whole, happy, healthy lives for the people who live in them.

Their website has details on their mission and presentations, as well as a large collection of documents and links that illustrate the ideal walkable community and how to achieve this ideal. In addition to advocating for more pedestrian friendly development, they also advocate for more bicycle friendly development as an alternate form of transportation.

The website also has lists of some of the most walkable small towns and communities. One thing most noticeable about the towns listed is that most of them have small populations. Many of these small towns are not unlike some of the village centers we have right here in Rhode Island. Arctic Village in West Warwick, East Greenwich center, Pawtuxet Village in Warwick and Cranston, Warren and Bristol centers, and Wickford Village in North Kingstown are all examples of these village centers that offer walkable, pedestrian friendly living. Urban-style development, while conjuring up images of large cities, can be found in many of the smaller towns and villages across the country. Walkable Communities’ website explains how this can be achieved without changing the fabric and scale of the neighborhood and community.


Pawtucket train station update

A couple recent newspaper articles about the future of the Pawtucket-Central Falls Train Station:

Interesting development regarding Amtrak, from The Journal article:

The city claimed its position got a boost last week when officials from Amtrak, which runs the railroad lines that pass through the station, wrote Seelbinder to assert what Amtrak says are its rights to review and approve any demolition plan. Michael Stern, senior associate counsel for the National Railroad Passenger Corporation – Amtrak’s formal name – advised Moses that deed restriction placed on the property in 1972 gave Amtrak the right pass judgment on any demolition plan.

“To ensure the safety of Amtrak operations at the Pawtucket/Central Falls train station, demolition work may not proceed until Amtrak reviews and approves the developer’s demolition plans and the contractor’s means and methods of demolition,” Stern wrote in a Dec. 13 letter to Seelbinder’s lawyers.

J. Speck has some photos of the partial demolition on his Flickr page:


Image Copyright J. Speck of The Bucket Blog.

The Pawtucket Alliance for Downtown Success (PADS) continues to post updates about the station on thier site as well.


Demolition of the Pawtucket train station started today!


UPDATE: The Pawtucket Foundation has posted some updated information on their website.

PADS has the full story. Earlier today Bilray Demolition Co. started demolishing a portion of the Pawtucket-Central Falls Train Station after obtaining a permit from the city of Central Falls. This a day after an engineering firm hired by the City of Pawtucket determined that the depot was the best location for bringing rail service back to Pawtucket; and a day before a Pawtucket City Council meeting that will discuss the future of the station, and it’s possible seizure by eminent domain.

The city of Pawtucket has obtained a restraining order which will halt the demolition for 8 days.

Tomorrow, December 6th, at 7:00pm at Pawtucket City Hall there will be a meeting to discuss the future of the station. The Pawtucket Redevelopment Authority will request the City Council to amend the city’s Redevelopment Plan to enable the PRA to acquire the train station by eminent domain.

Residents of Pawtucket are strongly encouraged to attend this meeting and express their desire for the station to be saved, rail service be restored to Pawtucket, and sensible urban development to take place on the depot site and in the surrounding neighborhodd.

Call the Pawtucket City Clerk’s office at 728-0500 for councilor contact information, or email the councilors at:


Pawtucket-Central Falls Train Station threatened


The future of Pawtucket-Central Falls train station has been the subject of much debate over the last several years. Currently the owner, Oscar “Ike” Seelbinder, has plans to demolish a large portion of the historic structure to build a CVS pharmacy.

On Wednesday, December 6th at 7:00pm local residents can express their dismay about this plan by attending the City Council public hearing on the future of the train station. Station supporters are looking for the City Council to move the train station property onto the official Pawtucket Redevelopment Plan. The meeting is at Pawtucket City Hall, 137 Roosevelt Avenue, 3rd Floor at 7:00pm.

The Pawtucket Alliance for Downtown Success (aka PADS) has written an open letter to CVS CEO Tom Ryan, urging him and the developer to come up with a plan for the site which saves the station and creates a more urban-friendly environment in this important area of Pawtucket and Central Falls.


Providence Needs Straphangers…

One thing that was obvious to almost everyone at the Providence Tomorrow charrettes was that few of the participants there for the transit forum were familiar with Providence’s (and RI’s) RIPTA public bus system, and that was a shame considering there were an estimated 72,000 bus rides per day on RIPTA in 2005 (an increase of 25% over the year before according to a 11/05 Providence Journal Article) and precious few of those individuals were at the charrettes.

This points out the glaring need in Providence for something modeled after the wildly successful Straphangers Campaign in New York City.


Image from Straphangers Campaign

The Straghangers are an offshoot of the New York Public Interest Research Group that advocates for better, cleaner, cheaper, and better functioning subways and buses in NYC. Like any advocacy group, it is one New Yorkers love to hate. Some view them as counterproductive and too focused on fare hikes over quality of life issues, while others view them as too timid on the very same points. If a good compromise makes everyone mad, then the Straphangers are doing their job, because absolutely no one denies they’ve been extremely influential at making NY public transit safer, prettier, and more efficient.

Could a similar campaign work here in Providence? On what should it focus? Is Providence’s bus, train, and ferry ridership organizable? What does everyone think?