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.”
Tag Archives | Metro Transit Study
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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
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.
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.
First, let me share my thoughts on having streetcars in Providence. The short story is I support them. Let’s say, for the sake of having a number, that the Core Connector built out as streetcars will cost $80 million¹. Certainly, a lot could be done for $80 million. But the Core Connector is not simply the school bus for Brown that people² are so flippant to say.
I view the Core Connector in large part as a marketing scheme for RIPTA and the City of Providence. Many people who’ve never ridden a bus will ride the streetcars. If RIPTA builds it and runs it properly, with reasonable fares, frequent service, well trained operators, ease of use, etc., it will be a great introduction to mass transit for these new users. Then when RIPTA makes the case for funding, as they will always need to do, the chorus of haters will be tempered. It is also a strong stake in the ground wherein RIPTA and the state leadership are saying they believe in public transit in Rhode Island and are willing to lay out a pile of money and steel rails in the ground to back that up.
For the city, having a streetcar line is a marketing dream. The shiny photos of happy people riding the rails are a brochure makers dream. They’ll be plastered all over the city’s and the convention center’s websites (and this website). It is a strong message for economic developers to send to companies looking to relocate here. ‘Look at us, we have a strong commuter rail line tied to a streetcar line and excellent bus service. Come here, your employees will love it!’
And plus that, we get a streetcar line connecting the two largest employment areas in the state with the train station and Downcity. In addition to serving existing riders and institutions, our proposed routing will help spur development in the Route 195 land, one of the best areas of development opportunity on the East Coast.
Could we save some money and put some rubber wheels on the road and call it a Core Connector? Sure, but we would not get anywhere near the bang for the buck that streetcars will provide. I think it is a worthy investment for our city and our state.
Now, onto where I think said streetcar should go and what service I think could supplement it.