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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

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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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RIPTA R-Line Schedules Posted

r-line-002RIPTA’s new R-Line rapid bus service will replace and combine the current Route 99 service North Main – Pawtucket and 11 Broad Street services. The new service is set to launch on June 21st and RIPTA has published the schedules for the new service.

One notable service change is that North Main service will run via Providence Station, providing direct services between the station and Kennedy Plaza and serving communities along North Main Street to Pawtucket and south along Broad Street to the Cranston line.

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→ PBN: Parking, bus plans ‘Link’-ed

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The two projects carry estimated price tags in the neighborhood of $40 million each and one of the bus hubs will likely share a location with the parking garage at the Garrahy Judicial Complex on Dorrance Street.

[...]

As central as The Link [195 Redevelopment District] is to the state’s economic-development strategy, by itself the second RIPTA bus hub planned adjacent to the Providence Train Station could be a larger project than the combined Garrahy proposal.

That’s because the hub is being looked at as part of a public-private partnership including, potentially, expansion of the train station, more garage parking and mixed-use development of the vacant land next door owned by Capital Properties Inc.

Planned correctly, these projects could greatly enhance the city’s transportation system. It is good to see divergent players looking at all the pieces together and seeing how they fit.

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News & Notes

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Image from Boston Public Market Facebook page

→ The Boston Globe: Boston public food market set for construction

Executives with the nonprofit organization behind the market said some vendors will begin selling products in an outdoor plaza along the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway this spring. Meanwhile, construction will proceed next door on a facility scheduled to open in early 2015.

Once completed, the indoor market will host about 40 vendors selling a wide array of local products, including fish, cheese, meats, produce, flowers, and specialty items. It is designed to function like a daily farmer’s market. But vendors will also offer prepared foods and dry goods such as books, candles, and cooking utensils.

A draft layout also includes space for a demonstration kitchen, where chefs could host cooking classes, as well as a 3,000-square-foot restaurant facing the greenway. Executives with the market are beginning to look for restaurateurs interested in the space.


→ The Boston Globe: Governor Patrick’s down payments on a transit legacy

Governor Deval Patrick isn’t hopping the Red Line to get to work, but that hasn’t stopped the comparisons to Michael Dukakis.

The Duke famously took the Green Line when he was governor, and Patrick’s latest transportation plan, released last week, revealed an infusion of money into rail and transit that represents the biggest commitment since the Dukakis days.

Over five years, Patrick proposes to devote more than 40 percent, or about $6.6 billion, of his transportation capital plan to the MBTA, rail, and other forms of mass transit.

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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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Barry Schiller: State Rail Plan hearings, January 23, 2014

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Photo (cc) Providence Public Library

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.

Here is a chance to give your opinion on any railroad related issue in Rhode Island. In response to Federal incentives, RI is developing a State Rail Plan for both passenger and freight services. A draft is available on-line at Planning.ri.govpdf. There will be public hearings on this draft on Thursday, January 23 at 10am and 6:30pm at the Department of Administration Building in Providence.

The draft plan starts with state railroad history, explains the process for developing the plan, notes related Federal programs and previous studies, and inventories the existing situation. The plan goes on to identify various desirable goals related to safety, security, infrastructure condition, reliability, service levels, coordination with other agencies, economic activity, congestion reduction, environment, and financial feasibility, but perhaps the heart of it is with Chapter 10 “Rhode Island Rail Investment Program” which suggests implementation plans over a 20 year timeframe.

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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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→ 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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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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Storm recovery

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Atwells Avenue, midday Sunday, February 10, 2013.

Latest updates we have on storm recovery, please share any updates you have in the comments:

First, this from RIEMA, ugh!


With temperatures well below freezing tonight, snow and ice that melted today is refreezing on sidewalks and roadways, use extreme caution on roads and sidewalks overnight and during the morning commute.


City of Providence

Also, Providence Snow Hotline: 680-8080

Further updates from the City:

PROVIDENCE CONDUCTING CITYWIDE INVENTORY OF STREETS TO COMPLETE NEMO CLEANUP PROVIDENCE PUBLIC SCHOOLS CLOSED TOMORROW, MONDAY, FEBRUARY 11

PROVIDENCE, RI – Providence officials are conducting a block-by-block inventory of every street in the City to determine which secondary roads remain impassable and deploy resources as needed in the wake of Winter Storm Nemo.

More than 90 percent of Providence’s more than 1,800 roads have been plowed. Less than 200 secondary roads still have not been plowed or need further clearing. In many cases, these are dead ends and narrow side streets with a car that remained parked on the street after the parking ban went into effect.

Because of the great amount of snow, clearing side streets has required the deployment of the city’s full inventory of front loaders and other large equipment; plows have not been sufficient to clear narrow residential roads.

The City is also contracting with private vendors that have large equipment. Privately contracted front loaders available to Providence have been limited by the high demand for such equipment across the state.

PROVIDENCE SCHOOLS CANCELED TOMORROW

Providence Public Schools will remain closed tomorrow, Monday, February 11 to allow for continued Nemo cleanup. District offices will remain open and all 12-month employees should report for work.

POWER OUTAGES

National Grid reports that the number of households without power in Providence has been reduced to 200 from more than 9,000 yesterday.

PARKING BAN

A citywide parking ban remains in effect. Vehicles parked on the street will impede plows and emergency vehicles, delaying snow cleanup and posing a public safety risk. Vehicles in violation of the parking ban may be towed.

SNOW ON ROOFTOPS POSES SAFETY RISK

With freezing rain forecast for tomorrow, residents are asked to closely monitor snow accumulation on business and residential buildings. Heavy snow can add stress to structures. Flat, commercial roofs are most vulnerable to stress, but slanted structures may also be susceptible. Residents should take reasonable precautions to monitor their homes and businesses and safely remove snow from roofs as necessary.

TRASH COLLECTION DELAYED

There will be no trash or recycling pickup on Monday in the City of Providence due to Winter Storm Nemo. Residents whose usual garbage collection day is Monday will have their trash and recycling picked up on Tuesday. All trash and recycling pickups for the rest of the week will also be one day later.

If possible, residents are asked to leave trash and recycling bins at the end of their driveways for collection. Trash and recycling cans should not be left in roadways.

OTHER CLOSURES IN THE CITY

The Roger Williams Park Zoo, Museum of Natural History and Planetarium, Botanical Center and Bank of America Skating Center will be closed tomorrow.

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STORM OF THE CENTURY!!!!!!

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Storm accumulation forecast from Right Weather.

Right Weather has updated their storm map with higher totals than the one above!

Updates

Amtrak Northeast Service Advisories.


Travel bans go into effect in Massachusetts and Connecticut Friday at 4pm. Authorized personnel only on roadways.


National Grid Power Outage Map
Report an Outage: 1-800-465-1212
For text alerts send STORM to NGRID (64743)



State of Emergency declared in Rhode Island.

Blizzard Warning 6am Friday to 1pm Saturday.

The short message about tomorrow (and Saturday, and probably Sunday too) is STAY HOME!

Of course, I’m planning to go to work for a while Friday, so practice what I preach, not so much.

What you need to know.


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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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