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Transit Forward Rhode Island 2040



Three Rhode Island agencies, the Rhode Island Public Transit Administration (RIPTA), the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) and the Rhode Island Division of Planning, are collaborating on Transit Forward Rhode Island 2040, a project to “envision how our passenger transportation network should look and operate in the future.”

The plan seeks to develop a transit vision for Rhode Island over the next two decades, identify the specific improvements needed to achieve the vision, identify potential new sources of funding for the improvements and identify governance changes that could help move the plan forward and improve service delivery.

At a meeting in Providence held Tuesday starting at 11am, Amy Pettine, General Manager for Strategic Advancement at RIPTA and Greg Nordin, RIPTA Planning Director gave a small presentation ahead of a series of workshops seeking public input. Over 60 people attended the meeting, well beyond expectations.

Three more meetings are scheduled:

Tuesday, December 11, 2018 – Woonsocket

Time: 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM – Formal presentation at 6:00 PM
Location: Museum of Work & Culture, 42 South Main Street, Woonsocket
Use RIPTA Routes 54 or 87 (Flex 281 available until 6:30 PM)

Wednesday, December 12, 2018 – Providence

Time: Noon to 1:30 PM – RIPTA staff will be in the Kennedy Plaza passenger terminal building to introduce the project to RIPTA riders who cannot attend one of the three formal workshops
Location: Kennedy Plaza, Providence

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018 – Newport

Time: 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM – Formal presentation at 6:00 PM
Location: Gateway Transportation Center, 23 America’s Cup Avenue, Newport
Use RIPTA Routes 60, 63, or 67

The purpose of this project is to create Rhode Island’s first Transit Master Plan.

“We want the Transit Master Plan to not be constrained by the current resources that we receive for transit in our state, for rail, bus and ferry. We really want to think multi-modal and towards the future. We want us all to think big,” said Pettine.

The plan is called Transit Forward Rhode Island 2040 but the plan will have features looking five and ten years out as well.

Greg Nordin gave an overview of what RIPTA is today, in terms of routes and ridership. Towards the end of his presentation Nordin spoke about near term projects, such as the Downtown Transit corridor, which will connect the train station to the hospitals, service to Quonset, an autonomous vehicle test program, a new smart card fare payment system and the introduction of three new electric buses in 2019.

2020 should see more electric buses, a new Pawtucket/Central Falls Transit Center and an expansion of a transit signal priority system, which allows buses to control red lights, saving buses time and money.

Amy Pettine returned to talk about the market for transit in Rhode Island. RIPTA, said Pettine, does their best to “balance demand with service as well as acknowledging that we are a state-wide system we have a mandate to provide service to our whole service area, which is the State of Rhode Island.

“That can be a tough job because the density of where people live and work vary greatly, even in our small state,” said Pettine.

Pettine asked those in attendance if transit investments should be focused where transit can make the most difference or spread across the board, covering as much of the state as possible? Maybe something in between?

These are immensely difficult and complex questions to answer, but public input is essential to ensure that issues of equity and environment are also considered.

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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.