Kennedy Plaza renovations aim to reduce congestion

Revamped transportation hub will feature fewer stops, electronic schedules, pre-pay ticket options

Contributing Writer
Tuesday, December 2, 2014

After almost five months of construction, the redesign of Kennedy Plaza is coming to a close. The $2.4 million renovation ­— funded by the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority and city bond money — is estimated to be completed by the end of December, said Robert Azar, Providence director of current planning. 

Kennedy Plaza will be a renewed space for public use, Azar said, adding that a large area will be available for a variety of events, such as concerts and festivals. “It will be a new public park programmed like any park you can have,” Azar said. “It’s really up to everyone’s imagination.” Azar added that he is “confident that the space will be used by a lot more people.” 

The city teamed up with RIPTA to make sure the project would “enhance the rider experience” by providing more open spaces in the plaza and increasing efficiency, Azar said.

“The plaza will still function as a bus hub,” he said, adding that “RIPTA will still have a strong presence in the area” despite a decrease in the number of bus stop lanes from four to two.

“The old berths were narrow, so during peak time, there was less room for people to wait for their bus,” said Barbara Polichetti, RIPTA’s director of public affairs. “Now there will be space for them.”  

The renovations include a decrease in the number of stops from 16 to around 10 in the plaza, but these changes will not decrease walk times for passengers, Polichetti said. “From our standpoint, there are congestion issues, and this will make that a little easier and hopefully a little safer for riders.” 

One stop will be eliminated entirely, while others will move from Kennedy Plaza to Exchange Terrace or East Approach, the Providence Journal reported Nov. 14.

“Our goal was a combination of creating a better transit center in the heart of Providence and adding some practical improvements,” Polichetti said.

Electronic signs with real-time information will be at all bus stops in the plaza, and ticket vending machines will be introduced so riders can pre-pay their fares, according to RIPTA’s website.

Polichetti said the revamped Kennedy Plaza will also include features such as improved bus shelters, new signage and additional bike racks.

There will be “a direct enhancement” to the aesthetic of the public space, including new trees and lighting that will give Kennedy Plaza the look of a “city square,” Polichetti said. 

RIPTA has received complaints from riders about the temporary bus stops and reroutes. But, Polichetti said, “you can’t really have a project of this length without hearing from your passengers.” During construction, all the bus lines that ran through Kennedy Plaza had to reroute around the construction site. “Whenever you have a service disruption, there’s definitely some inconvenience to the riders,” she said.

“We’re hoping that this new plaza will make those inconveniences worth it for them,”  Polichetti added. “We really appreciate (riders’) patience during the process.”

A $35 million bond was approved on Election Day that will finance bus hubs near the train station and in the Jewelry District, with the train station project as the primary focus, the Journal reported.

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