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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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