“A well-designed bus hub should be placed for easy foot traffic at a central downtown location where streets converge, which is where Kennedy Plaza is now,” said Patricia Raub, coordinator of the Rhode Island Transit Riders. “The students, seniors, disabled people, and commuters who use Rhode Island’s transit system need to be among the first people consulted on transit, not the last.”
In an open letter to Governor Gina Raimondo, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) Director Peter Alviti and Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority (RIPTA) CEO Scott Avedisian, the Rhode Island Transit Riders and other community groups raised concerns about proposals that have been floated to reduce or scatter the main hub of the state’s public transit system at Kennedy Plaza. The groups defended the importance of this central transit hub, and called for a more open process where people who use Kennedy Plaza would be listened to.
“The state’s central bus hub at Kennedy Plaza plays a key role in keeping our mass transit system accessible and usable,” said Patricia Raub, coordinator of the Rhode Island Transit Riders. “A well-designed bus hub should be placed for easy foot traffic at a central downtown location where streets converge, which is where Kennedy Plaza is now. The students, seniors, disabled people, and commuters who use Rhode Island’s transit system need to be among the first people consulted on transit, not the last.”
Here’s the letter:
Dear Governor Raimondo:
We write with serious concerns over the direction that your administration has taken regarding the core of the state’s mass transit system in past months. While we welcome your stated intention to expand transit as mentioned in your State of the State speech, we believe it is essential to work with all stakeholders when planning changes to our transit system, with particular emphasis on those who actually use public transit. The State’s Transit Master Plan that’s under development has been a model for engaging well with stakeholders. However, there have been more troubling cases, such as the draft plan from the Office of the Governor that was presented to the Providence Foundation last September.
That plan called for breaking up the state’s central bus hub in Kennedy Plaza and scattering hub functions to distant and inconvenient locations. It was only presented in private to this one group, and there was never an opportunity for bus riders to discuss it in a public hearing. An analysis by RI Transit Riders showed that the draft plan would entail long walks to transfer between buses for disabled people, seniors, students, office commuters, and many others who rely on buses.
We have heard since that September presentation that the State and the Providence city government have been working, together with a real estate owner who’s known for suing RIPTA, to develop further plans for Kennedy Plaza. But from last August until now, bus riders and the organizations that advocate for groups who use transit have not been briefed on these developments. We are apprehensive, knowing the history of failed changes to Kennedy Plaza that have degraded RI’s public transit system. RIPTA’s own advisory committee representing disabled people—ATAC–has also been troubled by these plans to move service out of Kennedy Plaza. We believe that transit money must be used responsibly in ways that actually do improve transit. Neither the bond money that was authorized by RI voters in 2014 to improve transit,nor additional borrowing that’s unauthorized by voters, should be used to finance changes that impair RI’s mass transit system.
So we ask you to open up the process. We are glad that you talked about improving mass transit in your State of the State Address. A strengthened mass-transit system can improve RI’s economy, while contributing to the mobility of many Rhode Island residents who cannot or choose not to drive. Mass transit is one of the most efficient ways we have to fight climate change, and strengthening it would help the climate more quickly than any other measures at our disposal. But none of this can work effectively unless groups representing transit users are fully in the loop as the plans are developed and bus riders themselves are allowed to be heard in public hearings.
- Patricia Raub, Coordinator of Rhode Island Transit Riders
- Climate Action Rhode Island (350 Rhode Island)
- Coyote Rhode Island
- DARE (Direct Action for Rights and Equality)
- Economic Progress Institute
- Homeless Bill of Rights Defense Committee
- Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE)
- The Oasis Wellness and Recovery Centers of Rhode Island
- Mental Health Recovery Coalition of Rhode Island (MHRC-RI)
- National Alliance on Mental Illness – Rhode Island
- Providence Student Union
- Rhode Island Bicycle Coalition
- Rhode Island Homeless Advocacy Project
- Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty
- Senior Agenda
- Sunrise Movement Brown and RISD
- SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice)