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CommonWealth: Dear Gov. Raimondo: Express trains wrong ask

Providence Station Adam Moss

Ari Ofsevit and James Aloisi write an open letter to Gov. Raimondo in CommonWealth Magazine in response to her call for express commuter rail service between Providence and Boston.

But rather than single express trains serving a few commuters, we respectfully suggest low-cost, common-sense improvements that would benefit everyone.

At our non-profit TransitMatters, we’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how to improve intercity rail in Massachusetts (we will be rolling out a regional rail white paper before the end of the year). We believe that better service is a combination of improved speed and frequency, providing a wider range of benefits in many corridors. The good news is that in the Boston-to-Providence corridor, there are two relatively low-cost steps — high-level platforms and electrification — that the MBTA can take (perhaps with Rhode Island’s help) that would significantly improve service between these two dynamic cities.

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PBN: The state’s 2012 bet on commuter-rail service has yet to pay off. Is it time to privatize?

Wickford Junction Station, image from RIDOT.

“We started a few months ago, doing a deep dive looking into what the MBTA can do, what it can’t do and why,” [RIDOT Director Peter] Alviti said. “Peak periods [are] quite a challenge for them to be able to give us more frequency during rush hours.”

The constriction relates to the design of the MBTA hub at South Station in Boston, according to Devine. It becomes a choke point during rush hours. “Without an expansion in additional capacity and trackage there, it really limits increasing the trains [to Rhode Island], particularly in the peak period,” he said.

Taking over the services themselves, however, would allow RIDOT to contract out the operations to a company that only has to cycle between Wickford Junction and Providence, and which might allow for future expansion.

The article goes on to discuss the need to add housing to the stop at Wickford Junction to provide a built-in client base for the service (true TOD, not a Home Depot and a Walmart) and also the potential for service to Quonset, which is an expanding jobs center.

We’re not going to tear down the $40 million station at Wickford Junction, so how do we make it work?

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R.I. economy needs investment in modern and efficient transportation infrastructure

Train Station at T.F. Green Airport, photo from RIDOT

Last week, Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) announced that, from July through the end of the year, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) commuter rail service will be free for people traveling within the state. The intention of the pilot program is to attract new riders who, in theory, will then realize the convenience of the rail line and continue to utilize it in the future. However, unless you are commuting to and from Boston, commuter rail service in Rhode Island is not very useful. Despite offering three MBTA stations in the state, service proves to be infrequent and unreliable. Lack of coordinated policy in solving transportation problems is a major cause. Large expenditures for highways and extending MBTA service to South County, albeit solving some traffic problems, have failed to eliminate growing traffic congestion throughout the Providence metropolitan area. If some action is not taken, rising immobility may erode the basic economic fiber of the state.

To become more economically independent from Boston and promote more local sustainable development, Rhode Island must develop a stronger public transit system. For example, looking to Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor connecting Providence with Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C., it is one of the region’s most important transportation arteries. Yet, most Rhode Islanders associate the route only with long-distance commuting, which is an unfortunate association falling far short of its full potential.

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Intermodal Center on Capital Center Commission Design Review Committee Agenda – July 11, 2017

Design Review Committee of the Capital Center Commission Special Meeting Notice
Tuesday, July 11, 2017 – 8am
Doorley Municipal Building
444 Westminster Street, 1st Floor Conference Room Providence, RI 02903

ccc-roundAgenda

  1. Roll Call
  2. Waterplace Park
    Proposal to erect a storage facility adjacent to the existing pavilion.
  3. Providence Intermodal Transportation Center
    Proposal for a new transportation facility in Capital Center. For discussion only.
  4. Adjournment
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Free in-state train service, July 3rd through the end of the year

Wickford Junction Station. Photo from RIDOT’s Facebook Page

Press Release from RIDOT:


RIDOT Offering Free In-State Commuter Rail Trips Between Wickford Junction, T.F. Green And Providence Stations

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) is encouraging Rhode Islanders to leave their cars at home for the daily trip to work, catching a flight, or a visit to the capital city by making in-state travel free on trains between Wickford Junction, T.F. Green and Providence stations.

RIDOT is making commuter rail service free for a limited time, beginning on July 3 and running through the end of the year. The promotion will raise awareness of this convenient transit service, encouraging more people to use the train instead of the busy Route 4 highway corridor and the subsequent challenges of driving into and parking in Providence.

“Rhode Island ranks on the bottom when it comes to the percentage of travelers who use transit as opposed to cars, yet we have the infrastructure and train service to make it easy for people to get around our state without a car,” RIDOT Director Peter Alviti Jr. said. “Making it free for a period of time will make more people aware of this great service and provide them an opportunity try it and use it on a regular basis.”

Parking at Wickford Junction Station is free year-round. The facility – located minutes from Exit 5 on Route 4 in North Kingstown – includes covered garage parking, restrooms, a climate-controlled indoor waiting area, electric car charging stations and vending machines.

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Next Stop: Making Transit Work for RI with Jarrett Walker

Last month, Grow Smart Rhode Island invited transportation expert Jarrett Walker to Providence for a transportation forum.

Jarrett Walker shares his observations about Rhode Island’s transit system, how it compares with other metros its size and offer some preliminary recommendations for shaping a system that gets more Rhode Islanders – and visitors – where they need to go when they need to get there, conveniently, quickly and affordably. We’ll hear how RIPTA and other public transit agencies are adapting to and leveraging new technologies and how some are partnering with the private sector to extend their reach or to create new transit-oriented development that helps to pay for transit improvements and operations.

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WPRI: Construction underway to new commuter rail station

pawtucket-station

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation kicked off construction Monday morning for the Pawtucket Central Falls Commuter Rail Station.

[…]

It’s slated to open in 2020, and will serve as a stop on the MBTA commuter rail between Rhode Island and Boston,

State officials say it will also function as a busing hub.


I obviously have not been paying enough attention. I knew this was closer to reality than it has been in decades, but I still thought we were going to be talking it to death for another year or two at least. Wow, great news!

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WPRI: 6/10 inspection reports reveal close-ups of potentially dangerous dilapidation

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Huntington Bridge photo from RIDOT’s Facebook page

Among the new issues revealed, a horribly rusted temporary support beam.

“This was decaying to the point of possibly falling over onto the high speed rail that’s next to it,” [RIDOT Director Peter] Alviti explained.

OK, should I not ride the train through this area then?

Alviti, who admitted the condition of the various structures keep him awake at night, said the fact that the reports are available is one of RIDOT’s most important, recent changes.

If the Director literally cannot sleep at night about it, shouldn’t the roadway be closed? What exactly is keeping him from sleeping if not the fear of an imminent collapse?

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CityLab: For a Better Economy, Add Commuter Rail?

pawtucket-station-location

Dozens of Amtrak and commuter trains pass through the two forlorn Rhode Island mill cities of Central Falls and Pawtucket, every day without stopping.

In more prosperous times, both had direct rail service to Boston and New York. But, in 1959, the historic Beaux-Arts station on the border between the two cities closed and train service ended for good 22 years later. Now, local leaders are betting that building a new train station will help both cities latch onto economic forces that have left residents struggling with poverty, unemployment and even a municipal bankruptcy.

[…]

A report on the state’s economy from the Brookings Institution, championed by Raimondo and released in January 2016, urged the state to focus on its competitive advantages, including its historic urban centers. It prioritized a new Pawtucket-Central Falls station to both improve access to Boston-area jobs and spur development in the heart of the two mill cities.

See also: The Providence Journal: Editorial: A catalyst for economic growth
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PBN: Long-sought Pawtucket-Central Falls commuter rail station gets $13.1M boost

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Location of proposed Pawtucket-Central Falls train station. Image from Bing Maps

A long-discussed plan to expand passenger rail service to Pawtucket and Central Falls got a boost on Wednesday from a $13.1 million federal TIGER grant which will help build a new commuter rail station here, something the mayor of Pawtucket called a “game changer.”

The station, expected to cost $40 million, will be located between Dexter and Conant streets. It is within and adjacent to the Amtrak-owned railroad right-of-way between the Conant Street bridge and Dexter Street bridge, in the northwest corner of the city of Pawtucket, near its border with Central Falls.


The Pawtucket Foundation is hosting a public forum about the proposed station, Wednesday, August 3rd at 8:30am at the Blackstone Valley Visitor Center. Details on Facebook.

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ProJo: Pawtucket, Central Falls seeking rail station

pawtucket-central-falls-station

Rhode Island is making its strongest push yet for a Pawtucket commuter rail station long-sought by the city and neighboring Central Falls.

The Department of Transportation late last month applied for a $14.5-million federal grant for the project, which would be built between Dexter and Conant Streets and cost an estimated $40 million.

According to the application to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s “TIGER” grant program, the state would contribute $3.6 million to the project and the two cities would combine to chip in another $3 million. The remaining $18.9 million would come from Rhode Island’s annual appropriation of federal transportation dollars.


The station could be completed as soon as late summer 2019, more likely early 2020.

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ProJo: R.I. begins moving on RIPTA bus hub project at Providence Amtrak Station

Rhode Island officials have taken the first small step toward building a multimillion-dollar bus hub at the Providence Amtrak Station, potentially as part of a larger real estate project with a private developer.

On Monday, the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation Board approved hiring Chicago-based real estate company Jones Lang LaSalle to talk to developers, promote the project and help put together bid documents to seek private investment.

[…]

A memo from Commerce Corporation Senior Project Manager Michael Walker given to the Commerce board described Jones Lang Lasalle’s task as: “…to assist with the outreach to the developer community to identify and promote the development opportunity, structure the data requirements that a successful solicitation will require in order to be favorably received by developers, and to draft the Request for Proposals that [the Department of Transportation] will issue to solicit the private investment in this first-of-a kind transit project in Rhode Island.”

I’m all about public/private partnerships, the land around the station is far too valuable to be just a bus station. And bringing in a private developer to team up on this project is the definition of Transit Oriented Development. But boy do I fear concessions to the developer whittling away at the benefits to transit riders that this project could realize.

Please oh please Rhode Island, don’t f*ck it up!

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WPRI: Providence firefighters to offer free rides to residents on New Year’s Eve

Happy New Year’s! Don’t drive drunk!

For the second year in a row, the Providence Fire Fighters IAFF Local 799 will be offering free rides home to anyone in the city on New Year’s Eve.

According to Paul Doughty, the president of the firefighters’ union, the Safe Night service will be offered from 5 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 31, until 7 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 1.

[…]

For a ride, residents should call (401) 272-7999.


Also, if you’re heading to Boston, check out the T schedules, FREE after 8pm!

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RIPTA Riders Alliance: Suggestions on how to really make transit work

ripta-kp

This post was submitted to Greater City Providence by the RIPTA Riders Alliance.

walkinpvd-iconIn consideration of how to “make transit work,” the subject of the December 1st CTC conference which was to address the relatively low rate of commute-by-transit in Rhode Island, the RIPTA Riders Alliance distributed this list of challenges and possible strategies to deal with them.

Mostly it is about operational and promotional improvements rather than big infrastructure capital projects.


Challenge

1. Lack of operating funds to implement key Strategic Plan goals including increased frequency, route improvements, real-time bus info.

Response

Work with stakeholders, the Governor’s office, and legislators to really establish a funding stream that grows with inflation and need.


Challenge

2. Very inadequate snow removal from bus stops and shelters after storms.

Response

Convene stakeholder group including Governor’s Office, RIDOT, RIPTA, Lamar, municipalities, snowplow operators, police, DPWs, and advocacy groups to work out plans and responsibilities to address this issue.


Challenge

3. Bus trips often slow.

Response

Expand signal priority/green light extension to more key lines (e.g. Chalkstone, Elmwood, Cranston Street, etc); make preloaded smart-cards widely available to speed boarding, with discount incentives for their wide use; investigate BRT opportunities and new express services (e.g. Providence-Pawtucket, Newport limited stops)


Challenge

4. A very significant 30% to 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in the northeast come from transportation, but this is slower to be addressed than energy and commercial sectors.

Response

Addressing climate change is a reason to enhance and promote transit and should be part of the discussion at the task forces that address climate change. Legislation that proposes assessments or taxes on greenhouse emissions should provide funding for public transit operations or infrastructure.


Continue Reading →

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Both RIPTA and MBTA will serve Wickford Junction Station starting December 7, 2015

wickford-jct-ridot

Wickford Junction Station. Photo from RIDOT

Press release from RIDOT:


RIDOT and RIPTA Providing More Transit Choices from Wickford Junction Transit Center

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) and the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) today announced the expansion of bus service to the Wickford Junction Transit Center in North Kingstown. Effective Monday, December 7, 2015, this move will provide one-stop consolidated transit services, including rail, bus, and carpooling for commuting and easy access to shopping, sports, and other entertainment activities in Providence and Boston.

“Improving service and reducing operating costs at Wickford Junction has been a major focus of attention at RIDOT, and we are pleased to provide these changes with the assistance of our partners at RIPTA to make the station a full-featured transit hub for South County,” RIDOT Director Peter Alviti Jr. said. “With trains and buses under one roof, commuters have more options for transit and can avoid the hassle of rush hour and costly parking in Providence and Boston.”

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Rhode Island Transit Future: Ideas – Commuter Rail – RI-TRAIN

Morton_Street_ramp

Morton Street Station on the Fairmont Line in Boston. Photo (cc) Pi.1415926535

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.
This is third of a series on ideas for Rhode Island’s transit future.

walkinpvd-iconUnfortunately, TF Green Airport and Wickford Junction Stations are still not doing well, only attracting about 400 passengers per day each partly because of marginal service.

The state needs to start the Rhode Island instate train as soon as possible. Infill RIPTA buses should be looked at as a temporary solution.

The following diagram revises my commuter rail or shuttle train proposal from 2012. I reduced the stops from the 2012 plan and am proposing that all MBTA trains to and from Boston originate or terminate at Providence Station.

Continue Reading →

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

ripta-kp

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.
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