University News

Thayer to receive parking improvements

Many of the inconsistent parking areas and parking rules will be changed in future proposals

By and
Senior Staff Writers
Friday, September 13, 2013

The current parking situation “obviously isn’t working,” said Robin Remy, executive director of the Thayer Street District Management Authority. The Planning Study is currently in the process of resolving the parking issues.

As plans for a variety of changes to Thayer Street continue to develop, stakeholder members of the Thayer Street Planning Study committee have a range of ideas for the issues surrounding parking and transportation to increase access and bring more business to the area.

Most community organizations involved in planning changes have said that improvements to parking and transportation need to be addressed as soon as possible to revitalize the area.

“If we really want to market the area, we have to make it accessible,” said Robin Remy, executive director of the Thayer Street District Management Authority.

The current parking situation “obviously isn’t working,” Remy said, and  “if we don’t have parking in that area, a lot of the marketing stuff won’t really matter.” Focusing efforts on improving parking will maximize the success of future improvements to marketing and commercial interests, she said.

There are “a lot of inconsistent parking areas,” Remy said, adding that some parking rules do not make sense and some of the parking lines do not match the parking signs. Future proposals will aim to “make the parking more understandable and visible” by identifying problem areas, clarifying and acting on these issues and then educating the public, she said.

Those who do not believe the Thayer Street area needs more parking are those who want “to dampen” its development, said Ed Bishop ’54 P’87 P’91, chair of the District Management Authority and a board member of the College Hill Neighborhood Association. Thayer suffers from a lack of parking spaces, which will not be solved by making people pay for parking, Bishop said.

Improvements to public transportation could be just as important as parking improvements, said Alan Mountjoy, principal at NBBJ, the planning and design firm helping craft the recommendations for the area.

“Right now, it’s a little bit complicated to get there,” Remy said.

Plans to build a streetcar line servicing Thayer Street would facilitate travel to the area and help develop positive perceptions of the area, Montjoy said.

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority is currently drafting an evaluation projecting the streetcar project’s impact on pollution, natural resources and other environmental concerns in compliance with federal regulations under National Environmental Policy Act, said Amy Pettine, special project manager for RIPTA. The assessment is the next step in moving the streetcar project forward and will be submitted this fall.

RIPTA is still collaborating with the city on additional avenues of funding for the streetcar project, Pettine said. The city applied for a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant for the streetcar project but was not among the cities awarded federal funds, according to an announcement from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s website.

Enhancements to the tunnel and Thayer Street bus stop, which is one of the most popular stops in the state, aim to make it both safer for passengers and provide the foundation for a future streetcar, said Amy Pettine, RIPTA’s director of planning and marketing. RIPTA has funds for renovating the bus tunnel and expects that essential improvements, such as a new drainage system, will commence this year, Pettine said.

Designs for the outside of the tunnel will be drafted this year in anticipation of beginning construction next summer or fall, Pettine said. RIPTA intends to build a structure for waiting passengers so they are not standing in the street but wants to “make it look cool and funky” and hopes meetings with RISD, Brown and other community members will spur designs that complement other aspects of the streetscape.

The proposed renovations to the bus stop and the creation of the streetcar line aim to make the area around Thayer Street and Fones Alley “a transit hub,” Nickerson said.

Mountjoy said it is also important to improve pedestrian access, adding that though the entire length of the street cannot feasibly be physically expanded, “there are a couple of strategic locations where we could extend the sidewalks to accommodate critical pedestrian infrastructure.”

“I feel like the sidewalks do need to be expanded,” said Harrison Liftman ’16, adding, “It’s pretty crowded when you’re walking down the street.”

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