RIPTA Riders Alliance is disappointed to read in the Providence Journal that a few wealthy real estate firms in downtown Providence have filed a lawsuit attempting to halt improvements to our state’s public transit system. According to Barry Schiller, RIPTA Rider Alliance member, “Instead of trying to work cooperatively with the people who actually rely on the bus system and with other stakeholders, developer Joseph Paolino and his allies have opted to go to court to stop state and local plans to improve bus service in the center of Providence.”
Randall Rose, also a member of RIPTA Riders Alliance, notes, “It is troubling that Paolino, whose real estate interests are affected by the Kennedy Plaza bus hub and who has been the main voice calling for a future with no bus hub downtown, also hired RIPTA board chair Wayne Kezirian last year to be a full-time employee of Paolino’s firm. In particular, it’s very odd that the new lawsuit by Paolino’s firms against RIPTA comes after current RIPTA chair Kezirian became the full-time lawyer for Paolino’s company.” Despite Paolino’s past status as an elected officeholder and his ongoing position as chair of the quasi-public Downtown Improvement District, this lawsuit shows no concern for the common good.
This lawsuit will needlessly delay implementation of the Kennedy Plaza and Downtown Corridor projects and add to their total cost. Furthermore, this suit is short-sighted: good transit access to downtown is one of center city’s principal advantages, and downtown property firms’ pressure for a more exclusive focus on automobiles over buses has not been successful in revitalizing the downtown. Those bringing this lawsuit fail to recognize that public transit — and bicycle ridership — is essential in combating the pollution and traffic congestion that contribute to climate change.
We call on Governor Raimondo, Mayor Jorge Elorza, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, Statewide Planning and the RIPTA Board to urge that the suit be dropped, and encourage downtown business community to help improve and promote transit use in the best interests of our city as a whole.