Moving Kennedy Plaza Bus Hub Will Inconvenience RIPTA Riders and Interfere With Climate Goals


The Kennedy Plaza Resilience Coalition opposes the proposal to move Rhode Island’s central bus hub to Parcel 35 of I-195 land, in a remote location by the highway. The location simply isn’t workable. A hub must be located in the central downtown area to be usable for riders, which Kennedy Plaza already accomplishes without the need for heavy spending.

Furthermore, the state will not meet its climate and transit goals without a focus on the Transit Master Plan (TMP), which this boondoggle detracts from.

This location is far from downtown Providence, too far away for many passengers to walk easily. Riders who use wheelchairs and walkers or push strollers will have to go uphill from Kennedy Plaza to Parcel 35. Rerouting buses to Parcel 35 will be awkward at best, and the detours needed to serve that location will add to trip times. There are also a number of one-way streets in the area. At a time when Rhode Island is attempting to lower its carbon emissions to combat climate change, we shouldn’t be building a hub that will decrease ridership rather than increase it.

Kennedy Plaza, on the other hand, is close to where most bus riders traveling to the city center want to be. It is within steps of City Hall, the post office, banks, restaurants, and cafes, and it is only a few blocks from Providence Place, URI-Providence, the Providence Public Library, and other places people commonly travel to.

According to the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority, 11,000 out of 15,000 daily riders terminate their trips at Kennedy Plaza. Any hub that is built must be in the central downtown area so these passengers can get where they want to go without a transfer. Although the hub relocation is being promoted as “transit-oriented development,” it is not. In actuality it does more to break up our state’s best example of transit-oriented development at Kennedy Plaza, pushing transit further away from riders’ most central destination.

These problems with Parcel 35 as a location would also apply to quite a few other potential locations. For people who value transit, the Kennedy Plaza site for a hub has so many advantages that it’s hard to do better. We reject efforts to frame the issue as choosing between Parcel 35 and some other inconvenient site(s). Officials have allowed Kennedy Plaza to deteriorate. The real issue is not which hub location should be chosen away from Kennedy Plaza, but whether to make riders suffer by forcing an unwanted hub move whose prospects are poor.

The hub move is extraordinarily expensive, with prices that could range into the hundreds of millions. No plausible case has ever been made that this deal is good value for money.

It doesn’t make sense to build any hub without addressing the transit agency’s “fiscal cliff” and the need to start the implementation of the state-approved TMP that will extend and improve public transit across the state. The failure to fund RIPTA already threatens imminent service cuts and may lead to even more severe reductions in service. With better transit service as called for in the TMP and a bus hub in a location that is convenient for passengers and for operations, we can help address our mobility, climate, congestion, and pollution challenges for the benefit of all Rhode Islanders.

Randall Rose is a member of the Kennedy Plaza Resilience Coalition, which was formed in January 2021 to bring the diverse stakeholder groups representing users of Kennedy Plaza together as the state and city are “proposing to make significant changes to the area’s public space.”


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  1. thank you for publishing Randall’s excellent post.
    The idea that an almost broke transit agency be forced to make an ultra-expensive move to a new hub in a much inferior location that increases trip times and operating costs truly would be madness.
    The powers that be may want the public to feel that it is a done deal and no use protesting. That is not true. There is still a political process and hearings, permits needed, RIPTA Board approval, even possible lawsuits including over possible civil rights violations.
    Kennedy Plaza does need improvements, and in 2017 a robust public process conducted by the city and RIPTA came up with a plan to do so that included reducing the bus footprint, improving pedestrian flow, enhancing security, and facilitating the flow of buses in an out of the Plaza by making Washington St two-ways for buses only where almost all the bus stops would be concentrated. The city, transit advocates, and RIPTA were all OK with this, the cost estimates were far, far less than relocating to a new hub. So why not reconsider this plan??

  2. Here’s a view from the directly opposite point of view. The Bus Station at Kennedy plaza means that all the businesses surrounding the plaza are loosing tenants. It is scary to go down there at night . Broken glass from broken car windows are everywhere. The smell of drugs, the dealing, and the loiterers – all add up to a place I and many others don’t want to visit. Moving the bus station and reclaiming that plaza will bring businesses back to downtown.
    The proposed bus station will likely encourage more building in that – area as the schools are buying up real estate in that district. Brown, Trader Joes, not a bad neighbor at all.
    Even NYC has its bus station away from city center (where ever that is these days)
    Of course there will be bus service shuttle from downtown to the proposed site.
    You want a thriving city? Move it. You want drug deals and broken glass? leave it as it is.

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