RIDOT, RIPTA propose plans to improve Providence bus system


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT), along with the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA), is proposing a framework for a multi-hub bus plan in hopes of improving the bus system in Providence.

The plan is conceptual, with the designs and budget still evolving, according to project leaders. Goals of the project include uniting ongoing and planned transit investments, enhancing intermodal access and connectivity, plus supporting economic development.

Construction at three hubs – the Innovation District, Kennedy Plaza and the Providence Train Station – will be done in phases, starting in summer 2021. Project leaders say the hope is to have all construction complete by summer 2023.

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RIDOT Director Peter Alviti says focusing on the Providence Train Station will hopefully link transit and rail transportation again.

“That is a link that we lost, or at least was subject to some inconvenience during the last several decades when the state moved the train station to its new location, but left the bus hub at Kennedy Plaza,” Alviti said.

RIDOT received a $12.5 million federal grant for a State-of-Good-Repair project at the Providence Station. Using those funds, the agency plans to create a bus hub at the station.

They also plan to expand restrooms and the cafe area at the Providence Station. There will be a complete interior renovation of waiting areas for train and bus passengers, along with improvements on pedestrian connections from bus to train.

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National Grid is a stakeholder in the project, and plans to renovate a historic building on Dyer Street in the Innovation District for RIPTA amenities, possible retail and National Grid Innovation Hub/offices.

RIPTA CEO Scott Avedisian says stops along the Downtown Transit Connector have become some of the most heavily traveled, despite fewer passengers allowed to ride due to the social distancing protocols.

Alviti says that the pandemic will play a role in the project, and added the nature of the multi-hub project is already taking a step in the right direction.

“We’ll certainly, in the design of the facilities themselves, have lessons learned from the pandemic that we’ll implement into the design in the public space,” Alviti said.

Project leaders outlined several benefits to the project, which they say include:

  • Bringing employees closer to jobs while eliminating crowding experienced by having one hub.
  • The system will link major employment centers such as: Wexford, Garrahy Courthouse, Johnson and Wales University, Brown School of Professional Studies, City Hall, Convention Center, Federal courthouses, Financial district, Capitol Hill employees, Commuters to Boston, Providence Place Mall, and area restaurants.
  • Lay the groundwork for transit oriented development opportunities within the Innovation District.
  • Open up pedestrian linkages to the river walks, East Side, and Newport/Bristol ferry.
  • The hubs will be designed to provide amenities including restrooms, indoor waiting areas with real time boards, benches, ticket vending machines, bike racks, and bike/scooter share areas at the Innovation District and Providence Train Station hubs.
  • Direct bus to rail connections linking downtown employment centers.

While RIDOT is billing the plan as an improvement, RI Transit Riders believes it will actually make the transit experience “considerably worse.”

“It is alarming that there has been so little transparency in planning and rolling out this project,” RI Transit Riders Coordinator Patricia Raub said in a statement. “Few of us had heard anything about this plan until last week. At this point, it seems that the main aspects of the plan have been decided upon, based upon input from engineers, planners and outside consultants ─ few if any of whom, I’d guess, have ever taken a bus, much less talked to a bus passenger.”

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