Greater City Providence

PBN: Transportation plan needed for I-195 land

The former Interstate-195 lands need a transportation plan as only seven of the 23 parcels slated for redevelopment there can accommodate a building with sufficient on-site parking, a consultant told the I-195 District Commission Monday.

John Chambers, a civil engineer with Fuss & O’Neil Inc., said because so many parcels are “odd-shaped lots” that do not have space for a building and garage, coming up with a transportation strategy for the district would be needed to maximize development value.

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  • So is then when they realize that you need methods other than cars to get around dense urban areas?

    Is this also when they realize that they should use zoning and other incentives to increase utilization of existing seas of flat parking?

  • The new downtown zoning that’s now in place might generate considerably more floor area than the previous I-195 master plan anticipated, compounding the “parking problem” possibly requiring even more spots than the 2,000-4,000 they’re already short.

    Doesn’t Providence Place have 6,800 parking spaces; the Convention Center 2,400; TF Green 458 for commuters; and Wickford Junction 1,100?

  • Am I incorrect in saying that I thought this was supposed to be mixed-use? In that there would be people living and working in the area and that if it were truly mixed use there would be less need for parking by also assuming mixed-use would include a good mass-transit solution?

    Border properties to the former I-195 land that are current surface parking lots are often sited in maps for redevelopment within this zone. However, should we be anticipating those property owners developing their land or can we also assume they will keep these parcels for surface parking use, and especially now since the coming out of this report? What incentives do these current border property owners have to developing their land (excluding JWU and the universities who seek to gobble up what they can)?

  • The existing peripheral or border surface lots would in no way be enough to provide another 2,000 to 4,000 parking spaces.

    For a standard or typical 90-degree parking lot, 300 sq ft is required for one parking space, which includes half of the drive aisle (200 sq ft parking space + 100 sq ft half aisle = 300 sq ft)

    4,000 parking spaces x 300 sq ft = 1,200,000 sq ft or 27.5 acres.

    The total developable land area for the I-195 Redevelopment District is little less than 20 acres. Even if those 4,000 spaces were put into a 5-story garage, it would require 5.5 acres of land. Which by the way would cost $100 million to construct.

    Surface parking is not an option. Mass-transit along with some on-site structured parking is the only way to achieve urban density development in the district, if that’s the desire.

  • More could be done to maximize street parking as well. While the streetcar would have some impact as far as reducing street parking, much of the planning for new streets maximizes traffic through-put at the peak by having extra lanes which could be devoted to parking. Pine, Clifford, and Friendship Streets for example are proposed to be 2 lanes with one lane of parking for most of their lengths. One lane of traffic is sufficient (see Westminster or most of our two-way streets which are one lane in each direction, or Angell and Waterman up on College Hill), with parking on both sides. The remaining traffic lane could be extra wide, as parking lanes need not be as wide as travel lanes, allowing for space for bike and auto traffic to better share the roadway.

    There are other areas in the 195 Streetgrid plan, as well as throughout the existing city streets, where travel lanes could be reduced to boost on street parking capacity (I’m thinking specifically of the areas of the service roads that are three lanes wide for example).

    Street parking doesn’t solve the need for 8 hour employee parking, but it does solve the issue of companies feeling the need to provide off-street guest parking, and parking capacity for retail. Street parking should also metered, providing revenue to the city. Instead of providing off-street guest parking at a cost to the company, businesses can shift that cost onto the street and transfer it into revenue for the City.

  • for mass transit to be much of a factor I think there needs to be some attention to theese issues:

    the high cost of bus trips to downtown ($2) due to ripta’s fare structure in which they eliminated the old “short-zone” around downtown (was 50 cents until 2003.)

    though commuter rail service is now available to Providence from both north and south, it is not an easy walk and there is the lack of good affordable connections to the I-195 lands. (need a shuttle??)

    if “free” (that is subsidized by employers or the government) parking is given to employees, there won’t be the critical mass of transit users needed to make transit srvice work and be socially acceptable. This is the problem at the State House and Providence generally.

  • Two-lane streets with one-side parking can work until the institutions start breaking the rules. Traffic movement on Angell and Waterman streets was barely tolerable until Brown put additional crosswalks with traffic lights across them, near Thayer, rather than creating pedestrian bridges and tunnels. Now it is a disaster — traffic routinely stands still (and wait until Olive street is closed and the Gilbane project begins to emerge). Institutional and related commercial truck activity can also contribute to routine traffic paralysis. The planning department gives the institutions whatever they want, regardless of the negative impacts on the surrounding residential and business interests. We’ve also seen recently that the institutions will not tolerate full-fare metered parking for themselves.

  • Peter, I was merely suggesting that if the I-195 area is to be of true mixed use, we probably wouldn’t even need that amount of parking. Like much of Providence, we need affordable and accessible housing, a reason much of our work force commutes into the city. If the land in question, as well as the greater city, coupled with appropriate transportation and structural options with future employers and housing, people would be walking to work and play, not driving and needing of parking. This we agree.

    I think Jef outlines a good solution with the focus on on-street parking. Not surface parking- which I feel everyone agrees is bad.

    But again, what incentives are there for those current abutting property owners with surface parking to develop their land and not sit on it while knowing the details of this report? The commission has no oversight of these abutting properties and I can only see, in the current climate, property owners not willing to develop in order to make a profit knowing there would be less options of parking in the new “Knowledge District.”

  • So in the print issue of PBN, there’s an article about parking in Providence being a “growth industry”. If anyone has read it, would you mind giving a summary?

  • I read it, I didn’t link to it because it is behind the paywall. They mentioned the demolition of the Outlet Garage as adding to capacity issues downtown. They interviewed Charlie Myers of Metropark and he said business is up. They mentioned the Cedar Street Deck.

    Anecdotally, from my perspective, the new lot next to the Arcade has not been filled a single day since it has opened, and the Arcade Garage has a special reduced price if you park on the roof, because no one ever parks there and they can’t fill it. Also, I recently inquired about monthly parking at the Coro Garage in the Jewelry District, they said they had “plenty” of spaces.

    No doubt the parking lot operators are making a lot of money, and it may well be a growth industry for the few individuals who control the lots in this city, but we still do not have a real capacity issue.

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