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Tag Archives | Core Connector Study

Providence Streetcar to apply for TIGER VI grant funding

streetcar-empire

The Obama administration announced a new round of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants (known as TIGER VI) with an extremely short turn-around for submitting applications, they are due April 28th.

The City of Providence applied for a TIGER grant last year, RIDOT also submitted a bid for Apponaug which was supported by the Governor. The Apponaug project was awarded a TIGER grant, and while there isn’t direct competition built into the grant process per-say, it is thought that Providence’s streetcar bid lost out to Kansas City’s streetcar which had more secure funding in place at the time. Providence’s 2013 TIGER grant application included a funding plan, but unlike Kansas City’s successful application, steps had not yet been taken to implement that funding.

Capital costs for the project (costs incurred to build it) are estimated to be $117.8 million (2016 dollars). Funding will come from City TIF Bonds, Federal funds, Rhode Island Capital Plan funds, RIPTA CMAQ funds, and a RIDOT land transfer.

In the next month, Providence plans to work further toward implementation of funding by working with the Providence City Council Ordinance Committee to approve a TIF plan for the streetcar district. This funding represents 50% of the projected cost of the project and will be one of the sources for operations revenue after the project is complete.

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WPRI: Providence’s streetcar plan hits snag as feds reject $39M proposal

Jef Nickerson, founder and editor of the urban planning and development blog Greater City Providence, told WPRI.com that it is “disappointing that Rhode Island prioritizes funding for automobile infrastructure but continues to fail in funding for mass transit services in the state’s urban core.”

Nickerson cited the General Assembly’s inability to pass legislation that would provide a reliable source of funding for the R.I. Public Transportation Authority and Chafee’s unwillingness to support the streetcar as examples of how the state “undervalues transit.”

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Providence streetcar back on track

rendering-streetcar-empire

Rendering of proposed Providence Streetcar at Empire Street.

In late 2009 then Mayor David Cicilline unveiled the Metro Transit Study, calling for the return of streetcars to Providence. In the intervening years, the Core Connector study has looked at the possibilities for doing just that, through studies and public meetings. A locally preferred alternative route connecting the East Side with the Hospitals area in Upper South Providence has been approved by RIPTA.

Then, we entered our fiscal emergency and the streetcar was put on the back burner.

In March of this year, Mayor Taveras gave his Economic Report and expressed his support for seeing the streetcar project continue. Last week, the City of Providence Department of Planning and Development applied for a Federal TIGER grant to partially fund the streetcar project.

The TIGER Grant Application calls for $39 million in federal funds to use towards the $114 million project.

The grant states the remainder of the project would be funded by City TIF Bonds ($54.32 M), RI Capital Plan funds ($15 M), RIPTA CMAQ funds ($5.25 M), and a RIDOT land transfer ($0.80 M).

Operating funds and debt service totaling $6.93 million per year would be funded by the TIF; an Assessment District; parking revenues; fares (~$2), sponsorships, and advertising revenues; and a three year CMAQ subsidy.

The TIGER Grant application included letters of support from RIPTA, the RI Convention Center, Brown University, the College Hill and Jewelry District neighborhood associations, the Providence Foundation, Grow Smart RI, AARP of Rhode Island, the Sierra Club of Rhode Island, House Speaker Gordon Fox, and others.

If the City receives the TIGER funding, construction could begin as early as 2015 following completion of design and environmental revue, with service commencing in 2017.

1The Governor would rather we build a rotary and by-pass road in Warwick.
2Yes, that’s me from 2011.

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Barry Schiller: On the Draft New 4-Year TIP – Public Hearing April 26

Providence Viaduct

Underneath the Providence Viaduct. Photo © RIDOT

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.

The draft 2013-2016 RI Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), a plan to spend about $1.1 billion, has been released by Statewide Planning. In print, it is at least 120 pages! This is because it includes a description of the process, analysis of financing, environmental justice, air quality, its various program components (such as bridge, Interstate, transit, safety) and a detailed compilation of the various funding sources. Despite some uncertainty about future legislation, it essentially assumes level Federal funding.

My overall assessment is that it basically continues current policies: improving infrastructure through the bridge (about $42 million/year) and pavement management programs ($30 million/yr); finishing major projects; traffic safety (e.g. striping, signalization $31 million/yr;) transit ($46 million/year.) There is little system expansion.

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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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Core Connector Study public Open Houses in November

Streetcar on Washington Street

Photo simulation of a streetcar on Washington Street.

RIPTA & the City of Providence Will Hold Three Open Houses to Hear Feedback on Proposed Streetcar Route

RIPTA and the City of Providence are nearing completion of the Providence Core Connector Study, a year-long effort to evaluate the costs and benefits of a potential new transit route through Downtown, College Hill, and Upper South Providence.

The project aims to better integrate the downtown core with our statewide and regional public transportation systems, encourage economic development, improve access to key employment centers, and strengthen neighborhoods, while supporting a high quality of life.

In September 2011, RIPTA and the City announced their recommendation for a new streetcar route connecting Upper South Providence with College Hill. This 2.5-mile route would connect over 6,700 households, 50,000 employees, and 25,000 students enrolled at five universities. It would serve Kennedy Plaza, the state’s largest transit hub, and pass within walking distance of the Convention Center, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, three major theaters, and more than 2,100 hotel rooms. It would also serve the Knowledge District and developable land made available through the relocation of I-195.

Three public Open Houses will be held to solicit public opinion on this proposal:

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Streetcars: The train station is out, but that’s OK

Providence Core Connector

Providence Streetcar proposed between College Hill and Prairie Avenue

The latest Core Connector (Streetcar) study document can be found here. [.pdf]

The main question that has been at issue with the Core Connector alignment is how to serve both the train station and College Hill at the northern end while maintain frequent service between those points and the Hospital District at the southern. If northbound trains split with every other one going to the train station or the Hill, then that would degrade the service frequency to each location.

Several options were explored, one would have had a shuttle running between the train station and Kennedy Plaza where passengers would be able to connect to the main line streetcars heading to College Hill and the Hospitals. That would be a major investments to carry passengers the 4 blocks between the two and would not address the fact that passengers are forced to make another connection along their trip.

Another option was to send the streetcars to the train station but not College Hill. College Hill would be served by other conventional bus services and passengers would make a connection at Kennedy Plaza to the streetcar. The issue here is that the expected passenger load to and from the train station will be confined to rush hours.

There are trains serving the station throughout the day, but mainly it will be commuters. College Hill will have commuters but will also have Brown and RISD students, staff, and faculty traveling downtown and the Jewelry and Hospital Districts. Economic development in the Jewelry District will likely for the near future be tied to academia, especially Brown. A direct connection to College Hill will serve more people more often.

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REBOOT: Providence Train Station

Schematic for a redesigned Providence Train Station area.

Click image to enlarge

REBOOT is an occasional series of posts on GC:PVD where we identify areas of the city that display poor urbanism and propose ways to improve them. Our interventions may be simple and quite easily realized, or they may at times be grand and possibly take years or decades to complete. Either way, we hope they generate interest and discussion.

Oh Providence Station… why are you such a dump?

Of course the short answer to that is that we have not taken care of it. But this post is not about the sad condition of the station, it is about the fact that the station was a mistake to begin with.

Of course we used to have the stunning Union Station which is now the home of the Rhode Island Foundation and other offices. The river and railroad relocation projects resulted in the tracks leaving Union Station behind and a new station being built.

When Providence Station was opened in 1986 we were deep in the heart of the automobile age. Gas supplies were cheap and seemingly inexhaustible, Amtrak was kind of a quaint hobby that we north-easterners insisted on keeping in service, and the MBTA did not reach Providence. This resulted in a station that is too small for our post-$4/gallon gasoline world. A station that is inconveniently located away from the city’s major employment centers (and with the removal of Route 195, the city’s employment centers are poised to move further from the train station).

Were it maintained properly, the station is certainly handsome. The clock tower nicely pierces the skyline, the low slung dome is handsome and adds a modern bent to the collection of domes we have in our fair city, the interior is attractive. However, the interior is not spacious enough for the passengers we have utilizing existing MBTA and Amtrak services, and the station will become more crowded as MBTA services expand southward and if a Blackstone Valley commuter service is ever instituted. And as the price of gas continues its generally upward trend, more and more people will turn to the trains.

Let’s not waste time blaming the planners from the 80’s for their shortsightedness on the station’s design, let’s instead consider what we can do to modify it for a world that is very different from 1986.

Bret wrote a post a couple years ago in which he cited me as referring to the station as a hundred-year mistake. He went on to highlight some of the short comings of Capital Center area as a neighborhood, and suggest some solutions. We were to write a Part II to that post and never got around to it, this is that Part II I suppose.

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News & Notes

Little. Yellow. Dangerous. “Children at Play” signs imperil our kids. [Slate]

There are several reasons engineers don’t like the signs. The first, and most simple, is that if you are driving in an area where children are actually playing, you will, it is hoped, notice them before you notice a sign warning you of them. Or, more to the point, that you will have noticed that you are driving in an area (say, a residential street) where there are likely to be children about. “I find it amazing that people think that a 30-in X 30-in square sign (that is only a little less than 6.25 square feet of sheeting material when you make the corners rounded) will make a difference in driver behavior,” one engineer complained on an Internet forum. “If the driver does not notice the characteristics of a neighborhood as they drive down the street, why would they notice a sign as they pass it, or remember it for more than a few seconds once they have passed it.”

The physical make-up of the street, more than anything, influences how motorists drive. A street built for slow traffic will result in slow traffic.


In Defense of the Corner Market [Next American City]

The argument about food deserts seems to be premised on the assumption that supermarkets – suburban-style, big-box, corporate chain stores with plenty o’ parking – are inherently superior to walkable, family owned food markets that serve low-income populations. The media portrays these corner markets as liquor stores or “discount” stores carrying little fresh produce and lots of Hostess cupcakes.

While there is certainly a class of convenience store that lacks healthy food options, many analyses have completely ignored the presence of small, family-owned food markets and their important role in feeding urban populations.


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News & Notes

Porous street unveiled in South Philly [Philly.com]

Tired of trying to navigate your car through flooded roadways when it rains or trying to walk across street puddles that resemble miniature lakes?

Imagine a city where you didn’t have to wear knee-high water boots when it rained, or worry about backed-up sewer systems creating havoc on your block – because your street suddenly became a sponge.


Get back to work! [New Urban Network]

A report, Transit-Oriented Development and Employment, makes the case that transit-oriented development (TOD) discourse has paid too little attention to major employment centers — instead concentrating on higher-density residential over retail.

Research shows that both transit ridership and quantity of real estate development around transit stations are closely related to the number of jobs within a half-mile radius of transit, the authors find. So, if new transit systems are built to serve as many riders as possible and promote TOD, connecting existing large employment centers is a very good strategy, the report concludes.

Connecting two major employment centers (Brown and the Hospitals) while promoting transit oriented development in the Jewelry District, is exactly what our Core Connector aims to do.

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Providence Core Connector Study Survey

The Providence Core Connector Study is seeking input from those who live, work, visit, or go to school in downtown Providence, College Hill, and Upper South Providence. A brief survey is available through May 13th.

If you have a moment, please take a few minutes to complete this survey about your travel patterns and current and potential transit usage. The results of the survey will help the study team make key decisions regarding the potential operations plan for enhanced transit service in the downtown area.

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Core Connector Study Meeting, April 25

We have made significant progress since the December public forum. After studying a range of potential routes through the downtown core, a route has been selected for further analysis. We are now considering different transit technology options (streetcar or bus), street design requirements, environmental impacts, traffic and parking considerations, and related issues. Additionally, we are looking at potential development impacts and financing options to determine how a major transit investment could impact development patterns in the downtown core.

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Proposed route for the Core Connector identified

The city and RIPTA have identified the West Route as the preferred Core Connector (aka Streetcar) route after public meetings and consultations with neighborhood groups and area businesses and institutions.


Larger image [.pdf (688 KB)]

A potential new transit route through Providence’s downtown core has been identified, connecting the Hospital District in Upper South Providence with Downtown and College Hill. Both streetcar and enhanced bus transit are now being studied as future modes of service along this route.

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News & Notes

Apartments, stores planned on Loyola Avenue near Superdome [The Times-Picayune]

Spurred by the future Loyola Avenue streetcar line, a local development firm plans to transform a sea of downtown [New Orleans] parking lots into 450 apartments and 125,000 square feet of shops and restaurants that it calls the South Market District.

Jewelry District, this is your fuiture.

In Quest for Revenue, Cities Turning to PILOTs [CitiWire]

“PILOTs can provide crucial revenue for certain municipalities, and are one way to make nonprofits pay for the public services they consume,” Kenyon and Langley say. “However, PILOTs are often haphazard, secretive, and calculated in an ad hoc manner that results in widely varying payments among similar nonprofits. In addition, a municipality’s attempt to collect PILOTs can prompt a battle with nonprofits and lead to years of contentious, costly, and unproductive litigation.”

Moving an Interstate highway [Let's Go KC]

In recent months a movement has started to relocate I-35 from Downtown to the West Bottoms, undoing one of the city’s worst 1950s-era highway mistakes. MoDOT is planning to rehab the aging section between the state line and Downtown Loop, and several neighborhoods have seized the opportunity to broaden the conversation to include the idea of moving the freeway instead of rebuilding it.

Been there, done that.

No Free Parking [Physics Central]

Next time you’re searching for a parking space and someone grabs a spot from right in front of you, it might seem like the last space left on Earth, but ponder this: there are at least 500 million empty spaces in the United States at any given time.

The researchers extrapolated on a rule of thumb used by urban planners that claims eight parking spaces exist for every one car. The group says that there is little science to support this scenario, but the result would be a whopping 2 billion parking spaces. If all of those spots were consolidated into a single location they would cover an area the size of Massachusetts. The most likely scenario calls for about half that area in parking spaces.

seattle: quick notes on “rapid ride” [Human Transit]

Looks to be a lot like RIPTA’s proposed Rapid Bus [.pdf] service.

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Planning Department all a-Twitter

For those of you not down with Twitter, I thought I’d share some of the tweets coming out of the Planning Department this morning:

ProvPlanning
Stay tuned: Mayor is expected to announce the winning design for the Providence River Pedestrian Bridge on Tuesday morning. (!!!)

ProvPlanning
We will also be revealing the names of all 11 design teams from the Providence Pedestrian Bridge Design Competition on Tuesday afternoon.

ProvPlanning
Did you know: there are approx. 46 acres of vacant/underutilzed parcels in the Jewelry District (that’s >45% of the land in the district)!?!

ProvPlanning
Throughout the entire Core Connector Study area there are approx. 106 acres of vacant/underutilized land.

ProvPlanning
Planned New Orleans streetcar line spurs development on surface parking lots: Nola.com

Good stuff.

Follow the Planning Department on Twitter @ProvPlanning and follow Greater City: Providence on Twitter @gcpvd.

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City Plan Commission Meeting, Dec. 14

City Plan Commission

Notice of Regular Meeting
Tuesday, December 14, 2010 – 4:45pm
Department of Planning and Development
4th Floor Auditorium
400 Westminster Street, Providence, RI 02903

OPENING SESSION

  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Approval of meeting minutes from November 16th, 2010 – for action
  • Approval of the CPC meeting schedule for the 2011 calendar year – for action

PROVIDENCE TOMORROW

1. Downtown Plan
Presentation of the final version of the Downtown Plan by DPD staff. – for action (Downtown)

CITY COUNCIL REFERRAL

2. Referral 3334 – Abandonment of a portion of Frank Street
Petition to abandon approximately 243 feet of the easterly portion of Frank Street that runs between Plain Street and Beacon Avenue. – for action (Upper South Providence)

MINOR SUBDIVISION

3. Case No. 10-040 MI – 104 Barrows Street (Preliminary Plan Approval)
Subdivision of existing nonconforming lot with two dwelling units measuring 5,918 SF into two lots measuring 2,959 SF each. The applicant intends to create two lots with a single structure on each lot. – for action (AP 108 Lot 123, Silver Lake)

PUBLIC FORUM ON PROVIDENCE CORE CONNECTOR STUDY

4. Presentation of Providence Core Connector Study
Presentation of an overview of the Providence Core Connector Study project, detailing potential modes of transport (streetcar, bus) alignments and potential routes. Public comment will be taken. – for discussion

ADJOURNMENT

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Downcity Design Review Committee Meeting – December 13, 2010

Notice of Regular Meeting • Monday, December 13, 2010 – 4:45pm
Department of Planning and Development, 4th Floor Conference Room
400 Westminster Street, Providence, RI 02903

Opening Session

  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Approval of Meeting Minutes of September 13, 2010 and October 18, 2010
  • Acceptance of the DRC 2011 Monthly Meeting Schedule

New Business

1. DRC Application No. 10.19, Kennedy Plaza Proposal by the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) to install new two new information kiosks on Washington Street adjacent to the east and west entrances into Burnside Park.

2. Providence Core Connector Study Presentation of the Providence Core Connector Study by the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) – for discussion.

Other Business

Image from Google StreetView

3. Pre-Application Review: 55 Canal Street (Arnold Hoffman Building) Proposal to construct an addition to the east elevation of Rhode Island School of Design’s Illustration Studies Building. This is a conceptual presentation for discussion only.

Adjournment


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