Greater City Providence

In other stimulus news, get ready for Kennedy Plaza chaos


Starting October 31st and lasting through November 26th, Kennedy Plaza will be mostly closed for repaving. Buses will be moved to Exchange Terrace, near the Convention Center, and other areas (see graphic above and RIPTA page here).

Should be interesting to see how people cope with this transition, and it will also be an interesting test. There’s been some talk among people in the city (including The City itself) about changing Kennedy Plaza and how it functions. RIPTA says, that for it’s needs, Kennedy Plaza is not working, it is beyond design capacity, and some of it was designed wrong. There are areas where buses cannot pull into berths properly, and the whole end near the court house is a total cluster-f*ck of buses and traffic moving through bus lanes.

Some of the ideas about the plaza (which are still very much, “wouldn’t it be nice if we could…”) involve moving the buses out of the plaza and placing them in some of the areas they will be temporarily moved to next month. Moving the buses out of the plaza, combined with proposals from RIPTA to build sub-hubs around the outskirts of Downcity, will potentially allow RIPTA to boost service levels without adding to the traffic and noise in the plaza.

Moving the buses out gives us the opportunity to use Kennedy Plaza differently. We could have a large scale open space for events such as Campus Martius in Detroit.


Campus Martius, Detroit | Photo (cc) JS_Frank

We could also have a public market in the plaza, open air seasonal, or better yet, a covered year-round structure.


Saint John, New Brunswick City Market | Photo (cc) ShutterbugMari

Let’s play Sim City on Kennedy Plaza. What would you want to see happen with the Plaza and the surrounding area? Should the buses be moved? Where should they go if they move?

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • I feel like the presence of the buses in Kennedy Plaza is a big part of what keeps downtown vibrant, even during tough economic times, as it always has. I’d be careful about “getting rid of them” altogether over superficial design issues. Sure it’s a little chaotic, that’s the point of city life. Perhaps get rid of some buses, plant some trees (real ones, not these ridiculous bradford pears and zelkovas), and see what happens. It’s our only true square, it should remain as such.

  • I think it would be great if the buses were somehow moved to the Amtrak Station. A similar idea to Boston’s South Station but obviously not as involved. It could give people traveling in and out of Providence a central transit hub. City buses would still go through Kennedy Plaza but not the Greyhound/Bonanza buses. Additionally, I’m all for an open market idea but I think this could be achieved elsewhere (the arcade….. what’s up with that building now?). Kennedy Plaza should stay an open, outdoor space much like the squares and plazas in European cities. It has to be made more pedestrian friendly, even after the bus removal, but I think that is feasible.

  • I also like the idea of closing the physical distance between the train station and RIPTA. Station park would probably the only large enough space to move the bus hub to. With the future expansion of the MBTA to the airport and Wickford, it would seem to make sense.

  • I remember Buddy Cianci (remember him…?) floating the idea of building over I-95 from Broad St to Atwells, and I’ve always harbored this dream of a transit hub there.

    It’s plenty big enough, more central than KP, and would de facto reconnect the downtown to the west side.

    That said, can’t we also design a bus system that doesn’t necessarily have every freaking bus go through a central depot?

  • Having a single central hub I think is a plus in the city. Sub Hubs would probably be an impediment to many riders making connections, unless buses were going through several of them. I agree that it feels like the train station should be more integrated with the buses and station park is an interesting. Perhaps a completely different design altogether for Kennedy Plaza, keep the buses there but alter the traffic paths and reduce the number of stations. I have concerns that a permanent design such as will be used for the construction is going to have similar issues with people missing connections because of increased distances between boarding stations.

  • I would prefer to see a decentralized bus system, but that would require buses to run more frequently and buses to run on routes that wouldn’t necessarily see a lot of passengers. And we’re already in constant danger of losing bus routes that aren’t used that much. However, it would help connect the city better and that’s the whole purpose of a bus system. I think it’s crazy that students at Providence College have to take the bus 1-2 miles downtown and then another mile to Federal Hill (assuming most PC students wouldn’t walk from downtown to Federal Hill, which is generally the case).

    The best place for a bus hub if we were to have one would be Station Park. It’s ridiculous that Kennedy Plaza is called an “inter-modal station”. There’s only one mode… bus. While many bus lines go by the train station, it’d be better if they all did. It’s not a fun walk from Kennedy Plaza to the train station. Not only is it not a very straight shot (it wouldn’t be so bad if you could see the train station from KP), but you have to cross the super-highway known as Memorial Blvd.

  • Oh the joys of Kennedy Plaza. As a dowtown student and employee I appreciate the proximity to everything down city. I think that Kennedy plaza is in a good location. It services all of the businesses and schools in the downtown area. I also like the idea of having a central transportation station for the city, combining buses, trains, etc into one place, but if we take all that foot traffic out of downtown, then I fear it wont come back.

    For some reason, I think that if we move “kennedy plaza” away from the immediate downtown, it will get creepier and unkept. As of right now, being in the KP at night is interesting, but Ive always felt reasonably safe with a strong police presence and tons of “safe places” if I needed to camp out somewhere until my bus came. The last thing we want is to put it out of the way, inconvenient for most people who ride RIPTA.

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