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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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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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Wickford Junction Station and the Route 2/102 Park and Ride

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Park and Ride at Routes 2 and 102. Image from Google Maps.

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.

On Tuesday, January 15th there was a meeting of the Rhode Island State Properties Committee, where the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) requested clarification regarding a Request for Proposals (RFP) to sell the Route 2/102 Park and Ride lot near Wickford Junction Station. The original RFP offered to sell the land for private development, but stipulated that the Park and Ride lot would have to be relocated and rebuilt at the expense of the developer.

RIDOT asked for clarification on whether the intent of the RFP would still be valid, if the agency dropped the requirement that the Park and Ride lot be relocated and rebuilt. The committee indicated that they would not support that change. They felt that it would be a clear departure from the original RFP and would create unnecessary hardship on the public that relies on the free lot to access public transit or to park cars when people car pool. The committee chair also said that they had been told in the past by RIDOT that the Wickford Junction Parking Garage would not be available for free.

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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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And you want a train, and you want a train…

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Amtrak train at New London Station. Photo (cc) mjpeacecorps

The Day of New London editorialized this week about our new train service to Wickford Junction. The gist of the editorial being they like more trains and want even more. Currently, New London is stuck in a bit of a train void, Shore Line East service to New London does not run on weekends, and at this point neither does MBTA service to Wickford Junction. Nonetheless, a weekday drive from New London to Wickford Junction, parking in the garage, and a ticket to Boston cost less than either driving straight through, or paying for direct Amtrak service from Boston to New London.

New Londoners seem pleased that at the Wickford Junction ground breaking, MBTA officials expressed optimism for extending service further south the Westerly, which would put MBTA commuter rail service within 15 miles of New London. At the same time, weekend Shore Line East service to New Haven from New London is set to start in a year (putting Westerly within 15 miles of commuter rail service to New Haven and New York).

Meanwhile, The Herald News of Fall River reports that officials in Bristol County, Massachusetts are a little miffed that we’re getting commuter rail service built deeper into Rhode Island while Fall River, Taunton, and New Bedford still lack commuter rail service. Though Mass. State Sen. Michael Rodrigues is realistic about the issues involved.

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Wickford Junction Commuter Rail service to start April 23rd

Wickford Junction Station

Wickford Junction Station, photo via RIDOT

RIDOT announced today commuter rail service to the new Wickford Junction Station in North Kingstown will start on April 23rd. The station will be served by 20 trips per weekday to T.F. Green, Providence, and points north. Travel times being 15 minutes to Warwick, 35 minutes to Providence, and under two hours to Boston’s South Station.

“Expanded commuter rail service to Wickford is just over two weeks away,” said RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis. “This additional service has been highly anticipated and should help alleviate congestion on our roadways.”

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Wickford Junction Station

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Photo (cc) EdKopp4

Update Reports from the Wickford Junction Station groundbreaking state that the FTA announced that they have just authorized the release of nearly $2M in federal funds to RIDOT for preliminary engineering of a proposed MBTA commuter rail stop in Pawtucket.

WPRI has all the commuter rail details from the groundbreaking today of the Wickford Junction Station.

The MBTA plans to make three round trips daily between Boston and Warwick when the airport station first opens this fall. That will increase to eight by the time Wickford opens next year, according to R.I. Department of Transportation spokeswoman Dana Alexander Nolfe.

The number of passengers using the Wickford Junction station daily is forecast to rise from about 1,500 when service starts in 2011 to 1,669 in 2020, according to projections made in 1995 and cited by state planners. An additional 240 commuters are expected to use the Warwick station.

A ticket from North Kingstown to Boston will cost $9 each way, and a monthly pass will cost $280, Nolfe said. To go from North Kingstown to Providence, a one-way ticket will cost $2.75 and a monthly pass will cost $101.

One-way trips from Warwick will cost slightly less – $2.50 to Providence and $8.25 to Boston. Officials hope the airport station will be ready to open in October. That project’s final cost is estimated at $267 million.

The Wickford Junction station is set to open sometime next year. In addition to Wickford Junction, MBTA service is being considered for the Kingston and Westerly Amtrak stations, and at new stations in Pawtucket, Cranston, and East Greenwich.

Ted Nesi from WPRI also spoke with Senator Reed about the long process of making this station happen. It actually started with Senator Pell, remember him? No, neither do I.

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RIDOT announces preliminary Warwick rail schedule


Photo © RIDOT

With train service to the InterLink (aka the Intermodal Station) at T.F. Green Airport in October, RIDOT is busy planning the routes for the service. Good news, the schedule will include reverse commuting options.

Reverse commuting means trains running in the opposite direction of the typical peak direction, in the morning for example, the peak direction would be northbound toward Providence and Boston. The concern had been by some that people would not be able to commute to Warwick and the airport from Providence in the morning, stifling future development around the station, and preventing people from being able to access morning flights via the train.

The schedule tentatively includes 3 trains leaving Warwick in the morning heading north to Providence and onto Boston with 2 trains running from Providence to Warwick. In the evening, 3 trains from Boston will pass through Providence and continue to T.F. Green, and 2 or 3 trains will run from Warwick and terminate in Providence.

A full schedule with specific times is still being worked on.

RIDOT also continues negotiations with Amtrak to bring have their trains stop at the new station.

In other Rhode Island Commuter Rail news, a groundbreaking for the proposed station at Wickford Junction is scheduled for this Wednesday. The station at Wickford Junction is scheduled to open in 2011.

Of course with the addition of Wickford Junction service, RIDOT and the MBTA will have to revisit commuter rail schedules, hopefully further expanding service to T.F. Green at that point.

Related:
Airport’s station to get new routes [ProJo]

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South County rail moves forward

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Rendering of Wickford Junction parking garage from Wickford Junction

The Providence Business News reports that the town of North Kingstown has amended zoning to allow for the construction of a 1,077 car parking garage at Wickford Junction.

Developer, The Cioe Companies plans to expand the existing plaza (anchored by a Walmart) into a mixed use transit oriented development featuring an MBTA commuter rail station attached to the proposed parking garage. RIDOT states that rail service to Wickford Junction will commence in 2010.

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