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Tag Archives | Commuter Rail

RIPTA: Downtown Transit 2.0

Downtown Transit Alternatives 140320

As RIPTA prepares to introduce its new R-Line rapid bus service next month, and reroute some buses in September based on the recent Comprehensive Operational Analysis, the agency is also planning for how to operate in Downtown Providence in the future.

Ideas for the future include physical improvements to Kennedy Plaza and the creation of two new bus hubs, one at Providence Train Station, the other behind the Garrahy Courthouse off Dorrance Street.

Information from RIPTA on the recent studies they have undertaken:


RIPTA has commissioned several recent studies to seek ways to improve the transit experience for Rhode Islanders. Rising ridership and the need to provide service that best meets demand in our state has driven recent evaluations of RIPTA’s operations, including the Comprehensive Operational Analysis (COA). As almost all RIPTA routes access Kennedy Plaza, it is expected that operations at this location would be more closely studied. RIPTA, in partnership with the RI Department of Transportation and RI Statewide Planning, is conducting a downtown transit improvement study, Downtown Transit 2.0, to evaluate whether the introduction of additional downtown Providence transit stations could improve service for existing riders, enhance downtown accessibility and mobility, and resolve operational and passenger experience issues at Kennedy Plaza.

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What Cheer / What Jeer 2013

We’re running a little late this year but we’re finally ready to run down the What Cheers and What Jeers of 2013.

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WHAT CHEER: South Street Power Station (Maybe)

In 2013 we got another plan to redevelop the moribund South Street Power Station. While numerous plans for the building, which at one point was known as the Dynamo House, have come and gone, this latest plan engenders optimism as Brown University is involved now.

In January the New York Times and then The Brown Daily Herald reported on rumors of the university becoming involved in the project. Then in June Brown announced it’s plans for the building in a letter to the campus community.

Those plans include a home for the long talked about URI/RIC Nursing School, office space for Brown, and some sort of retail component in the former power station building. Brown also has a developer engaged in building a student apartment building in the neighboring parking lot along Point Street and the City is involved in plans for a parking structure across Point Street from that.

The latest news on the project comes from the ProJo just before Christmas with reports that the PRA is considering condemning the building so the project can move forward.

While this could all be looked at as another in a long line of proposals for the building, Brown’s involvement makes this proposal seem more promising. 2014 will show us if this project actually moves forward.

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→ ProJo: R.I. considers commuter-rail stops in Cranston, W. Davisville, E. Greenwich, other links

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MBTA train at T.F. Green, image from RIDOT

Could commuter trains someday be stopping at Pawtucket, Cranston, East Greenwich and West Davisville on their way to Kingston and Westerly and maybe into Connecticut?

Could such trains link Woonsocket to Providence and T.F. Green Airport, with connections to Boston?

The Rhode Island Statewide Planning Program is pondering such questions as it compiles a state rail plan for the next 20 years, to be finalized sometime this year.

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→ PBN: Free parking has done little to spur commuter-rail use

Until more people need to get to Providence, [Wickford Junction garage operator Robert] Cioe said, those who do go will be able to drive in and find parking at rates that make it difficult for “park-and-ride” from the suburbs to compete.

Johnson & Wales University is preparing to open a 700-space parking garage downtown, the state is expanding a surface lot near the capitol while adding another, Brown University’s plans for redeveloping the South Street Power Station include a city-financed, 600-space parking garage and the Interstate 195 Commission wants the state to build a new parking garage next to the Garrahy Judicial Complex.

We don’t have enough parking but we have too much parking?

William Lawrence, a transportation consultant in South Kingstown who used to manage real estate for the MBTA, said there are currently a number of barriers standing in the way of commuter-rail ridership to Providence, in addition to the economy.

They include the inconvenience of getting from the Providence train station to many offices and the comparatively cheap cost of parking in or taking a bus into the city.

If we expect people to leave their cars at home, or at a park n’ ride, we need to make moving about the core better. We can’t put people on trains, let them off, and say, ‘good luck!’

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News & Notes

→ The Washington Post: Delaware is bailing out its casinos. Wait, what?

Earlier this week, Delaware’s casinos got a surprise windfall. Just days after saying no to tax breaks, Gov. Jack Markell (D) proposed that $8 million of the state’s budget surplus be distributed amongst its three struggling establishments, to forestall the layoffs that at least one of them had threatened.

That would seem to defeat the purpose of casinos: Generating revenue for states. The problem is, for the past decade, almost every state in the nation has tried to cash in–and gamblers aren’t keeping up. Twenty-three states have now legalized commercial casinos, and revenues are back to 2007 levels after taking a dip during the recession.

A small state surrounded by other states with lots of people and better casinos…



→ Next City: Loving My City Enough to Fight For It

These days, the zeitgeist has changed. If before, you were a happy but passive contrarian, enjoying the “lifestyle” that cost-of-living, accessibility, great culture, and tight-knit neighborhoods afforded — now there is a bit more at stake. The mood in Cleveland (speaking from my white, liberal, professional vantage) is more proactive. No longer can you just sip your wine and chat about how nice it is here. The ethos has shifted to an activist one: you have to help out, pitch in, you have to do something. There is an emergent sense of civic obligation.

Why this shift? Why this pressure to help the city’s economic, educational, political and cultural life? Not because things are worse but because they are better.

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→ The Valley Breeze: Momentum building for Pawtucket train station

Development of a future commuter rail station in the city’s Barton Street neighborhood, once little more than a dream, is now a good possibility within the next few years, said state officials last week.

City officials in Pawtucket and neighboring Central Falls say the train station would be a “game changer,” functioning as an economic driver and providing convenient transportation to commuters and tourists along the Northeast Corridor.

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Pawtucket Commuter Rail Station Public Meeting – June 13, 2013

Did you want more transit news today? From the Pawtucket Foundation:

June 13th: 6PM – Commuter Rail Station Public Meeting

You are invited to attend a Rhode Island Department of Transportation and City of Pawtucket Public Meeting

CONCERNING THE POTENTIAL PAWTUCKET COMMUTER RAIL STATION

Thursday, June 13, 2013
Open House: 6:00 PM
Presentation: 6:30 PM

Blackstone Valley Visitor’s Center
175 Main Street, Pawtucket, Rhode Island

pawtucket-commuter-rail-logoThe Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) and the City of Pawtucket invite members of the community to a Public Meeting on Thursday June 13, 2013, to learn more about the Pawtucket Commuter Rail Station Project.

The meeting will take place at the Blackstone Valley Visitor’s Center, 175 Main Street, Pawtucket. Beginning at 6:00 PM, representatives from RIDOT, the City of Pawtucket, and the project team, will host an open house to discuss the project and answer questions. At 6:30 PM, RIDOT will present an overview of the Pawtucket Commuter Rail Project, which is exploring options for a potential station to reintroduce commuter rail service to Pawtucket. The Project will evaluate site, environmental, and rail impacts associated with a new station on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Providence Line.

The Blackstone Valley Visitor’s Center is located at RIPTA’s Pawtucket Transit Center and is accessible to persons with disabilities. Spanish translation services will be available at the meeting. Individuals who do not speak the English or Spanish languages or who are hearing impaired may contact RIDOT on or before June 6, 2013, to request an interpreter. Please direct interpreter requests to customerservice@dot.ri.gov or (401) 222-2450.

  • Si esta información es necesaria en otro idioma, llame al (401) 222-2450.
  • Se esta informacao e nevessario emu ma outro lingua, contate por favor (401) 222-2450.
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Aaron M. Renn: For Commuter Rail, Better Service to Boston, Not Southward Expansion

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MBTA Commuter Rail passing under Providence Place. Photo (cc) Sean_Marshall.

Rhode Island recently spent a large sum of money to extend MBTA commuter rail service south to TF Green Airport and Wickford Junction. Both of them feature large parking garages (although the TF Green Interlink facility is for more than rail transit) that are not typical of suburban train stations and were very expensive.

These stations are only served by select trains on weekdays only, and feature long journey times to Boston – 1:35 from TF Green and 1:50 from Wickford Junction. Though these stations can be useful for commuting to downtown Providence – I’ve used the TF Green service for that myself – Providence is not nearly the employment market Boston is. What’s more, the Wickford Junction station is in a particularly inauspicious location.

Unsurprisingly, ridership is low. TF Green had about 200 passengers per day as of last summer, and Wickford Junction about 150.

With a mind-numbing total price tag of $100 million for this project (the estimated cost of just the transit portions) – almost $300,000 per rider – it’s unlikely that this will ever be viewed as a successful project.

As with the philosophy of the Boston area commuter rail generally, this service expansion was based on expanding the coverage area, but not the quality of service. In effect, it is an equity investment to make access to transit more equally available geographically (though economically more troubled areas like Pawtucket remain without service, so it doesn’t provide more economic equity).

While geographic equity is a legitimate government goal, public transit requires certain characteristics such as origin and destination demand, density of residences and employment, and walkable destinations in order to work well. It’s possible to add service to areas, but that does not mean it will be cost effective or well patronized.

Additionally, the South County expansions don’t move the needle for Rhode Island. One of the biggest challenges facing the area is of course the economy. In the Greater New England there are basically two main sources of wealth generation: New York and Boston. To the extent that you are in New England and are tied to one of those markets, you are generally succeeding. To the extent that you are cut off from them, you are struggling. The Providence area struggles because it is not as able to tap into the Boston economy given the just far enough distance between them by both car and transit.

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Free commuter rail parking through March 29, 2013

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Wickford Junction train station and parking garage. Photo &copy RIDOT.

Governor Chafee and RIDOT Announce Free Parking at Commuter Rail Stations for Rest of Winter

Governor Lincoln D. Chafee and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) today announced that parking at the garages at the Interlink at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick and at Wickford Junction Station in North Kingstown will be free for the reminder of the winter.

“As we have seen over the past couple of days, travel conditions and parking in Providence have been anything but normal because of the blizzard,” Governor Lincoln D. Chafee said. “In consideration of what has happened, and the expectations of future storms in the coming weeks, we have decided to provide free parking at our commuter rail stations to make it easier for people to get to work for the rest of the winter.”

Commuters taking advantage of the free parking will receive validated tickets allowing them to exit the parking garages at T.F. Green and Wickford at no charge through Friday, March 29, 2013. Fares from Warwick and Wickford to Providence are $3 and $3.25, respectively, each way. Fares to from these stations to Boston’s South Station cost $10.50 and $11, respectively. Full schedule and fare information can be found on RIDOT’s website at www.dot.ri.gov.

“While we can clear roads in a relatively short time following snowstorms, major weather events such as the blizzard leave huge volumes of snow that create hazardous situations for many days with slick and narrowed roadways, snow-covered breakdown lanes and less parking,” RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis said. “These problems are being experienced all across Rhode Island, but are greatly exacerbated in a dense, urban environment such as Providence.”

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Wickford Junction Station and the Route 2/102 Park and Ride

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Park and Ride at Routes 2 and 102. Image from Google Maps.

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.

On Tuesday, January 15th there was a meeting of the Rhode Island State Properties Committee, where the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) requested clarification regarding a Request for Proposals (RFP) to sell the Route 2/102 Park and Ride lot near Wickford Junction Station. The original RFP offered to sell the land for private development, but stipulated that the Park and Ride lot would have to be relocated and rebuilt at the expense of the developer.

RIDOT asked for clarification on whether the intent of the RFP would still be valid, if the agency dropped the requirement that the Park and Ride lot be relocated and rebuilt. The committee indicated that they would not support that change. They felt that it would be a clear departure from the original RFP and would create unnecessary hardship on the public that relies on the free lot to access public transit or to park cars when people car pool. The committee chair also said that they had been told in the past by RIDOT that the Wickford Junction Parking Garage would not be available for free.

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New Hampshire seeks MBTA Commuter Rail expansion

There is some precedent for the MBTA running interstate service: Rhode Island’s funding for its recent extension of the Providence line to serve T. F. Green International Airport in Warwick and Wickford Junction. Current estimates are New Hampshire might have to kick in $10 million to $12 million annually to support a Lowell line extension into the Granite State.

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Free rides from Wickford Junction

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Commuter rail train at Wickford Junction. Photo from RIDOT.

RIDOT annouces “Wickford Wintertime Wednesdays.” Six Wednesdays from January 23, 2013 to February 27, 2013 RIDOT will provide free roundtrip commuter rail fares from Wickford Junction Station to Providence as well as free parking at the Wickford Junction Garage. This program is to encourage commuters to try the commuter rail service which started last April.

When the morning radio or television station is giving the bad news about slow traffic on Route 4 and I-95 because of snowy conditions, many South County commuters won’t be concerned because they take commuter rail to work in Providence. Those who are thinking about joining them in the hassle-free way to work this winter now have a chance to try it for free.

As an invitation to try the train service from Wickford Junction Station in North Kingstown, Governor Lincoln D. Chafee and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) are announcing “Wickford Wintertime Wednesdays” for six weeks from January 23, 2013, to February 27, 2013. Each Wednesday during this promotion, commuters will receive validated parking at the station and a round-trip ticket for travel to Providence Station from Wickford.

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→ PBN: URI looking to expand Providence presence

The University of Rhode Island plans to increase its presence in the state’s capital city, according to President David M. Dooley, as part of a strategy to better prepare its students for success as well as help Rhode Island’s economy grow out of the hole it is in.

Speaking at a Rhode Island Foundation media breakfast this morning, URI President Dooley among other things reiterated his desire to locate a joint URI/RIC nursing school in the Jewelry District and called expansion of Commuter Rail to South County ‘essential.’

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MBTA introduces mTicket, but not for us (yet)

Update 11/27: An update of the App was just pushed out on iOS which now includes the south side stations, including Providence.
Apparently, Wickford Junction is not yet included. MBTA says it will be added in the next update.

The MBTA’s new mobile Commuter Rail ticketing app, mTicket, launched today, but only on Commuter Rail lines out of North Station.

We can expect the mTicket system to be available for trips on the Providence line starting later this month, and monthly passes for December will also be able to be purchased using mTicket. The MBTA has an FAQ to answer any questions about the system.

mTicket is available to download for free for the iPhone through iTunes and for Android devices through the Google Play store.

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RIPTA Service information for today, October 30, 2012

RIPTA has detours in place today on Routes 14 and 66 due to issues related to Hurricane Sandy. The RIde Program is suspended except for vital medical trips. RIPTA warns to expect minor delays on all routes.

MBTA Commuter Rail service is also suspended today between Wickford Junction and Mansfield due to downed trees on the tracks.

Normal Service has been restored on MBTA Commuter Rail trough to Wickford Junction.

Northeast Corridor Amtrak service is suspended today.

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Comments on NEC Future

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Photo (cc) Sean_Marshall

The Federal Railroad Adminstration (FRA) is running a planning program dubbed NEC Future to determine the future path of rail development in the Northeast Corridor running from Boston to Washington. Greater City Providence reader Peter Brassard submitted the following comments to the FRA in response to the study’s request for public comment.

Content Summary

  1. Construct a T.F. Green Airport Amtrak Station
  2. NEC High Speed Rail (HSR) bypass between East Haven and Westerly
  3. Reserve the option to construct a four-track NEC corridor in Rhode Island and Eastern Connecticut, as well as between Providence and Westwood
  4. Develop Providence to Cape Cod Rail Service using an existing corridor
  5. Develop Providence/Fall River/New Bedford interstate LRT
  6. Develop Providence to Worcester Commuter Rail Service
  7. New England track electrification and use of DMUs and EMUs
  8. Add multiple infill train stations within Providence’s urban core cities
  9. Develop Rhode Island Mainline Rail Transit
  10. Extend Train Service to Aquidneck Island
  11. New York to New Jersey – Penn Station New York to the Portal Bridge
  12. Penn Station New York to Grand Central connecting rail tunnel
  13. Extend the New York #7 Subway line to Hoboken Terminal
  14. Boston South Station to North Station connecting rail tunnel

1. Construct a T.F. Green Airport Amtrak Station
The study should include planning for a T.F. Green Airport Amtrak Station. Amtrak Regional service, as well as MBTA commuter trains could serve the station. Service models for this station would be the BWI Airport Station in Baltimore and Newark Airport Station in New Jersey.

2. NEC High Speed Rail (HSR) bypass between East Haven and Westerly
Study a HSR bypass option that would link the existing NEC between East Haven and Westerly following the routes I-95 and RI-78 corridor. This bypass would avoid excessively curved sections of eastern Connecticut’s legacy rail right-of-way, which would allow for significantly higher speeds for HSR service. This option could be a cost effective alternative to constructing a second completely new Southern New England HSR corridor from Westchester County through central Connecticut to Hartford and to Providence. There could be an opportunity to combine funding for a rail bypass and upgrading and increasing capacity to route I-95 simultaneously.

3. Reserve the option to construct a four-track corridor in Rhode Island and Connecticut, as well as between Providence and Westwood
Amtrak has proposed creating a four-track rail corridor between Providence to Westwood. Other sections of Rhode Island’s NEC rail segment south of Providence had the corridor width to accommodate four tracks. Also many bridges had been designed to allow for four tracks throughout the state. When the New Haven to Boston NEC segment was electrified in the 1990s, replacement tracks were installed off-center in much of Rhode Island to allow for the tilting feature on Acela trains.

Develop an alternate that would reserve the option to re-build Rhode Island’s NEC rail segment south of Providence Station to four-tracks and if a HSR bypass is not planned for or constructed between East Haven and Westerly in Eastern Connecticut, to accommodate for future expanded track usage of high-speed and regional trains, commuter rail/mass-transit, and freight service. A Rhode Island four-track corridor would typically only require the acquisition of narrow strips of land adjacent to the existing corridor to meet current standards for high-speed track centers, while in other instances no land acquisition would be necessary.

Even if four tracks are not built in Rhode Island or Connecticut for decades, planning for a their future installation would insure that other federal and state funds will not be wasted when infrastructure, such as bridges are constructed or replaced over the NEC. With the current offcenter track configuration in Rhode Island, off-center abutments or column placements for new bridges could make future track expansion problematic and unnecessarily expensive.

4. Develop Providence to Cape Cod Rail Service using an existing corridor
Develop year-round rail service from Cape Cod to Providence, T.F. Green Airport, and beyond to New York. Service could be provided by Amtrak or alternately by a commuter rail agency from Cape Cod to Providence and T.F. Green with connections to Amtrak. Study the reuse of the existing rail right-of-way from Providence to Attleboro to Cape Cod.

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