RIPTA holds community meeting to discuss new bus routes

New routes will move buses out of Kennedy Plaza, specifics of plan yet to be determined

senior staff writer
Monday, September 11, 2017

Two weeks ago, Mayor Jorge Elorza unveiled the Kennedy Plaza revitalization plan — a project to develop park and community space in Kennedy Plaza, which will require the redrawing of some public transit routes  in downtown Providence. The Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority responded last night by hosting an open house to get public input as it plans its future bus routes.

Kennedy Plaza is not the only project requiring route redrawing downtown. There are multiple projects the city is currently engaged in that will also affect downtown transit routes: the Downtown Transit Connector and the Providence Intermodal Transportation Center, a rebuild of the Providence Amtrak Station with room for buses. RIPTA sought input on these projects during the meeting.

“For RIPTA, these (projects) provide great opportunity for us to modify our service,” said Barbara Polichetti, director of public affairs for RIPTA. Some of the changes will include more direct service to new locations, reduction of travel times, a high-frequency transit corridor from the train station to Rhode Island Hospital and a decrease in the use of Kennedy Plaza as a transportation hub. Exactly how routes will be redrawn is still under discussion, and RIPTA is seeking public input as it undergoes the planning process.

“The main goal of today is to get an idea of where people’s priorities lie in terms of our service,” RIPTA Associate Director of Planning Greg Nordin said. To do that, RIPTA posted proposed route options on boards around the room and asked attendees to vote on their preferred route options. The final routes will take into account these votes but will not be drawn solely based on them.

“We’re looking at how our service operates, if there are opportunities for new locations with our existing service and where people would like to see that occur,” Nordin said.

All of the proposed routes are based on thorough analyses, said Greg Strangeways, a consultant for RIPTA from Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates. He said all the routes being discussed were created through market analyses, existing usage and information on transfers.

“There is going to be a lot more service, overall, no matter what people pick,” Strangeways said. “Residents and jobs will have more transit closer to them, and many more people will get a one seat ride, where they don’t have to transfer.”

Strangeways also mentioned that part of RIPTA’s rerouting is meant to help the city reduce the transportation footprint at Kennedy Plaza because of its upcoming restructuring. “All of the service will be there, but the buses won’t have to wait there while they get back on schedule. The city wants to reuse the space and balance the transit service,” Strangeways said. He added that transportation options at the Plaza will still exist in a more streamlined capacity.

“Our goal is to look at all of these opportunities and look at them in the light of what our passengers want,” Polichetti said. Despite changes in routes, RIPTA is committed to maintaining services for all of its passengers, she added.

Changes will begin to take effect as early as winter 2018, but the project will not be fully completed for four to five years, Nordin said.