Revised Transit Hub Plan Gets Mixed Reviews at Public Session
March 2, 2022
PROVIDENCE — Riders remain ambivalent about the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority’s latest proposal to reimagine bus service at Kennedy Plaza.
The proposed $77 million transit facility on Dorrance Street would have restrooms, interior waiting areas, expanded customer service machines and, RIPTA officials say, would make transferring buses easier. The proposed site, closer to the Providence River and the Jewelry District, is currently a parking lot owned by One Financial Plaza LLC.
RIPTA presented the new proposal to the public for the first time Feb. 24, answering riders’ questions and aggressively soliciting public feedback. The event, hosted on Zoom, was attended by more than 160 people.
While riders broadly welcomed the amenities and promises to improve service, many repeatedly asked why current services at Kennedy Plaza simply couldn’t be improved to the standards proposed for the new hub. Greg Nordin, RIPTA’s chief of strategic advancement, said the agency has outgrown Kennedy Plaza.
“Every time we talk about service changes, we are struggling to find places for those buses,” he said.
The proposed Dorrance Street property is significantly smaller than RIPTA’s footprint surrounding Kennedy Plaza and Burnside Park, and some riders questioned whether the new bus hub will have enough room.
“One of the questions people keep coming up to me with is how are they going to fit all of Kennedy Plaza on this site?” rider Nick Freeman said.
RIPTA officials stressed the project was still in its conceptual stages and nothing is finalized. The agency has yet to perform a traffic study on the surrounding area, and while it has expressed a desire for a public-private partnership to help fund the project, agency officials currently have no specifics.
Previous plans to reimagine Kennedy Plaza and bus service in Providence received hostility from most riders. State transportation officials have been trying to come up with a plan since 2014, when voters passed a $35 million bond to boost public transit. State agencies have floated a number of proposals over the years, including a much-derided Multi-Hub Bus System that RIPTA quietly scrapped last month. Agency officials said they landed on the current proposal after direction from Gov. Dan McKee, who asked for consensus around the Dorrance Street location.
Rhode Island Transit Riders, a grassroots public transit advocacy group, said in a statement that it was not endorsing the Dorrance Street plan and encouraged state officials not to give up on Kennedy Plaza.
“If a more decisive case is presented that Dorrance would actually be an improvement, with firm guarantees for committed funding and the amenities sketched in yesterday’s meeting, we may well support it in the future,” the organization wrote in the statement.
RIPTA has promised two additional online meetings and one in-person on March 21 at 6:30 p.m. at the CIC building on Dyer Street. Members of the public interested in attending any of the sessions can find more information here.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported who owned the land for the proposed new transit hub.