Transportation

Providence City Council Opposes RIDOT’s Bus Plan

There was no discussion nor debate as the Providence City Council passed a resolution objecting to a plan to break up the Kennedy Plaza bus center.

The nonbinding declaration opposes the Multi-Hub Bus System proposed by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT). The plan shrinks the number of stops in Kennedy Plaza and shifts many to the train station on Gaspee Street and to a new bus station proposed for Dyer Street in the Jewelry District.

The council’s Oct. 15 vote asserts that splitting the primary bus center into three satellite stations would require additional transfers and create longer travel times. Members said the hardship would be greatest on people of color, low-income communities, seniors, and persons with disabilities.

Advocacy groups were quick to praise the action by the 15-member City Council.

“It is a strong reflection of the voice of the people — a voice which has been absent throughout this planning process,” the Providence Streets Coalition, an alliance of community organizations and people who support transportation improvements, wrote in an email.

Objection to the RIDOT plan has also come from Rhode Island Transit Riders, the Providence Preservation Society, Grow Smart Rhode Island, and the Jewelry District Association.

An online petition started by Rhode Island Transit Riders opposing the multi-terminal plan has received more than 930 signatures. Petition signers and other critics claim the new bus plan is being pushed by Gov. Gina Raimondo.

Proponents of public transit say other proposals for reconfiguring bus travel would be less burdensome on travelers.

“A key ingredient to all the alternatives is having a single hub capable of accommodating all transfers in one convenient location with related amenities including cover from elements, bathrooms, transit-oriented retail, etc.,” said John Flaherty, deputy director of Grow Smart Rhode Island.

Transit advocates have urged consideration of a 2018 plan advanced by Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza that concentrates bus routes through Washington Street in Kennedy Plaza. Flaherty said a previous plan that merges the central bus hub with the Providence train station is also worth exploring.

Under the latest RIDOT plan — the third in four years — bus routes at Kennedy Plaza would shrink from 35 to 10. The Providence train station would serve eight to 10 routes. Dyer Street would service 22 to 24 routes.

Elorza has a mixed opinion of RIDOT’s multi-station plan. He likes the funding for remodeling the main bus terminal at Kennedy Plaza. But he acknowledged the limitations of a Dyer Street bus station, which is considered too remote for many travelers.

“The Dyer Street hub is challenging because of its constrained location and we believe more consideration should be given to pedestrian movements around the Dyer Street location, the layout of buses, access to the new West Side Park, and impacts to the waterfront park,” Elorza’s press sectary Patricia Socarras said.

The City Council, in its resolution, accused RIDOT of being unresponsive to criticism.

RIDOT spokesperson Charles St. Martin, however, noted that there have been 16 meetings for the proposal with stakeholders, many allowing public comment. The meetings, he said, were hosted by the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, the Rhode Island Foundation, The Providence Foundation, Grow Smart Rhode Island, the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission, local developers, Brown University, Johnson & Wales University, the Jewelry District Association, Amtrak, and the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority.

Public comment was also taken at RIPTA board meetings.

St. Martin said RIDOT is still working on the plan and no decisions have yet been made.

Providence’s Racial & Environmental Justice Committee is scheduled to host a “Transportation Equity Visioning Event” via Zoom on Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. The event is intended to gather views on transportation equity in Rhode Island. Registration information is here.

The Rhode Island State Planning Council is taking comments on the state’s long-range transportation plan, Moving Forward RI-Transportation 2040. An online public hearing is scheduled for Oct. 29 at 5 p.m. Written comments can be submitted here through Nov. 9.

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  1. at today’s (Oct 21) RIPTA Bsrd meeting, despite more oppostion to the RIDOT plan, and erepsite presentations of this City Council resolution, and a similar one from the Environment Council of Rhode Island, the Board totally ignored all the opposition and unanimously expressed support for the RIDOT Plan. Of course they are all appointed by the Governor (who ignored the state law mandating that at least one actually regularly ride the bus) who has the real responsibility for pushing this bad plan, just to please Joe Paolino who wants buses and the mostly low income passengers out of the Plaza so he and his clients won’t have to look at them from the windows in his nearby properties.

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