Tag Archives | Commuter Rail

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


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.

Local News & Notes


Proposed South Street Landing parking garage. Rendering by Spagnolo Gisness & Associates, Inc.

I’ve been quite busy offline the last few weeks. Here’s a selection of local stories I’ve been trying to catch myself up on: New MBTA ‘bullet trains’ will get riders from Worcester to Boston in less than an hour

Riding the rails from Worcester to Boston should take less time come May. Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito on Wednesday announced the addition of a non-stop bullet train and two additional express trains on the Worcester/Framingham line.

“This is a game changer,” Polito said, referring to it as a quality of life issue. “For the first time ever, a non-stop train leaves Worcester and arrives in Boston in less than an hour.

Can the Providence line haz ‘bullet trains’ too pleaz?

The Providence Journal Fed-ordered drainage work will cost RIDOT $112 million

Faced with a consent decree requiring it to comply with federal clean water rules, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation has budgeted $112 million over the next decade to clean and repair its ailing network of drainage systems around the state.

DOT director Peter Alviti said the state agency plans to annually spend between $6.6 million and $16.8 million on drainage improvements as part of its 10-year strategic plan in a bid to correct years of inaction and reduce the amount of polluted stormwater that flows into Narragansett Bay and other local water bodies from state roads.

Look back to 2013 when Save The Bay highlighted the issue that surface run-off, not sewer overflow was what was most contributing to beach closures that year. RIDOT didn’t even know where it’s run-off was coming from, while we, the Narragansett Bay Commission rate-payers, are paying crazy sewer bills for a giant pipe to hold our poo.

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ABC 6 Video: Pawtucket-Central Falls Commuter Rail Station

ABC6 – Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather

More from the Pawtucket Foundation:

Pawtucket and Central Falls are a step closer to having a commuter rail stop on the Providence – Boston MBTA line. Last night, at a public meeting hosted by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) and the Cities of Pawtucket and Central Falls, officials noted that the station planning was at the mid-point of a lengthy process to establishing the station.

Mayor Donald Grebien, of Pawtucket, kicked off the meeting by pledging strong support for the project from the City. He noted that Pawtucket has been working to re-establish a rail stop for ten years, and while government doesn’t move fast enough, he expects to see the station completed within the next 5 years. The City of Central Falls was represented by Planning Director, Steve Larrick. Larrick noted that Mayor Diossa, also a strong proponent for the station, was in Washington D.C. meeting with Rhode Island’s congressional delegation to discuss a number of projects, foremost, a commuter rail stop.

The meeting was well attended by the public and entertained positive comments and constructive feedback regarding: station access for pedestrians, bikes and RIPTA service, development opportunities, landscaping and connections to the recently announced Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park.


Pawtucket-Central Falls Commuter Rail Station Public Meeting – January 22, 2015


From the Pawtucket Foundation:

You’re invited to attend a Rhode Island Department of Transportation & the City of Pawtucket/City of Central Falls Public Meeting concerning the future Pawtucket/Central Falls Commuter rail station!

Thursday, January 22, 2015
Blackstone Valley Visitors Center
175 Main Street, Pawtucket, RI
Open house: 6:00PM | Presentation 6:30PM

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT), The City of Pawtucket and the City of Central Falls invite members of the community to attend a meeting to learn more about a potential Pawtucket/Central Falls commuter rail station. Officials will provide an update on the project and outline next steps for the potential station, which is proposed for 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 January 19, 2015 to request an interpreter. Please direct interpreter requests to 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.


The Valley Breeze: Woonsocket looks to change zoning to allow train stop on Fairmount Street


Image from Google Maps

Boston Surface Rail Company has proposed establishing commuter rail service between Worcester and Providence, but still needs to conquer a few regulatory hurdles and negotiations with some involved parties.

This week, the City Council took a first step toward preparing Woonsocket for the possibility, receiving an ordinance that would adjust zoning laws to allow passenger terminals to be operated in non-residential zones.

While the change authorizes terminals throughout the city, Bouley said it is prompted by BSRC’s hope to create a stop at 85 Fairmount St., the property that held the Alice Mill building before it was obliterated by a massive fire in 2011.

Well this is all well and good, but doesn’t Woonsocket have a handsome station downtown already? This burned out mill site probably provides the opportunity for a lot of parking…

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Your ‘Charlie Card’ could soon take you further

fares-charlieThe Rhode Island General Assembly is considering a bill to allow the MBTA’s farecard, the Charlie Card, to work on RIPTA:

SECTION 1. Chapter 39-18 of the General Laws entitled “Rhode Island Public Transit Authority” is hereby amended by adding thereto the following section:

39-18-25. Create parity with MBTA commuter passes. – The authority shall consult with the Massachusetts Bay transit authority on the feasibility of allowing commuter rail passes to be used on all Rhode Island public transit authority buses. Such rail passes shall serve as dual Rhode Island public transit authority passes and Massachusetts Bay transit authority passes, if possible. Such consultation shall also include proposed methods to apportion and share the costs of such passes between the two (2) authorities.

SECTION 2. This act shall take effect upon passage.

I know RIPTA has wanted to crack this nut for some time, with the official blessing of the Assembly, let’s hope they find a way to figure it out. Anything to make utilizing transit easier is a good thing.

h/t to ecoRI News’s Tim Faulkner

The Commons at Providence Station – aka Capitol Cove Building B


View from intersection of Smith and Canal Streets

Today the Capital Center Commission approved plans for a new building in Capital Center, the second phase of Capitol Cove, now dubbed, The Commons at Providence Station.

The developer described the building in a presentation to the Commission:

Phase II – The Commons at Providence Station

The first phase of Capitol Cove was the construction of Building A in 2005. The current phase is development of Building B on Parcel 6, and the project has been renamed to The Commons at Providence Station. The project will consist of 169 units of residential apartments, approximately 169 enclosed parking spaces, as well as amenity areas, leasing office, and community spaces.

The site extends the established street grid and breaks down
the scale of the building into an appropriate size for the site. The site boundaries are Smith Street to the North, Canal Street along the East, and the existing Building A along the South edge of the site towards Park Row. The West elevation of the building faces the catenaries and rail line of the Amtrak/MBTA commuter rail lines.

The entry to the site will be along an existing road which runs parallel to Building A. The drive entry up to Building B will consist of a circular courtyard and will provide a drop-off area, entry into the garage (west side), and an area set aside for van or truck parking for building deliveries. This space will also accommodate moving trucks to allow for clearance of any vehicular or pedestrian traffic within the courtyard entry. The Riverwalk will connect from Building A up to Smith Street.

The approved design has been maintained for the new project. The approach to newer, more efficient building materials and finish materials has been considered in the current design. The shape of the building and surrounding area remain true to the intent of the original design approved by the Committee in 2003.

The design incorporates architectural variety in the approach
to materials to allow for smaller, distinct architectural districts rather than a monolithic development. Materials used in Building A will be incorporated in Building B. The buildings will be finished in two tones of brick, metal panel accents, and exterior painted cementitious panel system.

Two levels of parking are planned. Level P1 will enter from the East at the entry courtyard. Level P2 will enter from Smith Street. Level P1 will connect the entry, amenity, and community spaces. Both Level P1 and P2 will include residential units along the Canal Street side.

Building B is a challeng ing use of the undeveloped area of Parcel 6 because of the close proximity to the Amtrak/commuter rail lines, which generate noise and feature prominent catenary lines. These detrimental features make this parcel especially difficult and costly to develop. Taking these challenges into consideration, the team seeks to address these issues with design solutions. The development will include a continuation of the Riverwalk from Building A, and complete the connection from Park Row West to Smith Street, allowing uninterrupted pedestrian access. The area along the Riverwalk will include landscaping similar to that on the adjacent sites. The building will be designed and built to follow LEED Design Guidelines and will seek to meet LEED Silver criteria at minimum.

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Worcester Telegram & Gazette: Worcester-Providence ‘JetBlue of rail commuting’ envisioned

Worcester Union Station

Union Station in Worcester, Massachusetts – Photo (cc) Jonf728

Already practically sister cities, Worcester and Providence may soon have a new connection — this time over the rails.

Boston Surface Railroad Co. has been formed for the specific purpose of creating a commuter rail service between the two New England cities. Vincent Bono, the largest stockholder and general manager of the new company, said plans are in the first stages of developing what he hopes will eventually be three trains per day traveling between the two cities.

The first step is to conduct a study, which is expected to take six months. If the project proves feasible, an agreement would have to be forged with Providence and Worcester Railroad Co. to use its tracks, and possibly to operate the trains. If all goes well, the service could begin within 18 months.


RIDOT: Rhode Island’s Transit Future

One of the most crucial components of a healthy economy and quality of place is a sound transportation system: one that supports diverse modes of travel and seamlessly connects Rhode Island to the rest of the world – and Rhode Islanders, more meaningfully to each other and to opportunity.

Since I’m a big geek I watch videos like this and visit websites extolling the virtues of various transit systems around the world and I think to my self, ‘our system really sucks.’

Then I see a shiny video showcasing our system and I wonder if all those other cities just have really good videographers hiding the suckitude of their systems.

I think it is half and half; half our system sucks compared to others, and half other systems suck too but are good at publicity. Look at how the Interlink is described in that video, it sounds good, but it is not really there yet. There are a number of factors why, there’s really no there there at Warwick Station, it is not really a destination other than the airport (regardless of what this video is trying to sell us about the area). Rhode Islanders really still love their cars. There’s a chicken and egg about not enough riders so not enough service and not enough service so not enough riders, etc.

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ecoRI News: Transit Advocates Rally Support for Question 6


At a Monday morning press conference at the decaying Amtrak Station Public Plaza, civic, business and labor leaders joined voices supporting Question 6, a $35 million transit bond on the Nov. 4 ballot that they consider critical to Rhode Island’s economic health.

By connecting downtown with regional and national transportation lines and making systems more attractive and useable, proponents are banking on trends that show that efficient, effective and reliable public transportation is used by increasingly larger segments of the population. It also improves air quality, cuts carbon emissions and reduces congestion.


News & Notes

One proposal to combat sea-level rise in Boston, convert Clarendon Street into a canal.

BostInno: 6 Visuals for How Boston Can Adapt to Rising Sea Levels

Though Boston has historically grown outwards into the ocean, with landfill expanding its boundaries over the decades, the threat of it being submerged back into the Atlantic is very real. Though the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has introduced numerous legislation in an attempt to curtail rising sea levels, as has the City of Boston, there needs to be a shift in thinking from how we can combat the effects of climate change to how we can adapt to them.

A new report published by the Urban Land Institute’s Boston/NewEngland branch makes a number of municipal design suggestions and reaffirms on several occasions that the time to act is now.

The study, called The Implications of Living With Water, examines four specified areas dangerously at-risk should Mother Nature decide to unleash her wrath in the form of a hurricane not unlike Sandy, which devastated the Eastern seaboard from New York City down to Florida.

BostInno: It’s Official: Allston Is Going to Get a New MBTA Station

Tuesday afternoon Governor Deval Patrick announced that previously derailed plans for West Station are back on. When West Station is complete, commuters will be able to make direct trips back and forth between Allston and Back Bay or South Station – without having to suffer the misery of the Green Line.

Harvard University will help pay for the new railroad station in Boston’s Allston neighborhood.

The MBTA has long range plans to do short run subway-like service on some of it’s commuter rail lines within areas in and close to Boston using smaller DMU trains.

If/when the MBTA moves ahead with plans for purchasing DMU’s, Rhode Island should be ready to get on board with them (sorry). DMU’s would be perfect for running higher frequency intra-state service in Rhode Island.

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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.


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


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.


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!’


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.