At tonight’s City Council meeting, Councilwomen Helen Anthony and Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3), and John Goncalves (Ward 1) put forth a resolution in opposition to the proposed multi-hub bus system Downtown Providence. This resolution is also co-sponsored by Councilor Katherine Kerwin (Ward 12) and Councilor Rachel Miller (Ward 13). It will be referred to the City Council’s Committee on Urban Redevelopment, Renewal, and Planning (URRP) for further discussion.
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) has proposed a substantial redesign of the Kennedy Plaza bus hub in downtown Providence. This redesign decentralizes bus activity in Providence which adversely impacts the transit riders. Significant opposition has been voiced by many community members and groups, including Rhode Island Transit Riders, Providence Streets Coalition, Grow Smart Rhode Island, Jewelry District Association, and the Providence Foundation.
“RIDOT presented a final plan without involving the stakeholders it most affects. Specifically, the plan causes longer commutes and increases the required number of transfers per trip for individuals who use this essential service. The process is so flawed, we shouldn’t even be looking at the merits of the plan.” RIDOT should stop, engage in a robust public process and make sure that new plan does no harm to the diverse group of Rhode Islanders who rely on transit service that passes through Downtown Providence,” stated Councilwoman Anthony.
The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority serves up to 45,000 commuters a day, with many Rhode Islanders relying on the bus system to get to and from work. RIPTA provides an essential service to some of the most economically vulnerable individuals in the state.
Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune stated, “The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority bus service is the primary mode of public transportation in our state. Access to public transit amplifies our residents’ freedom and mobility to go anywhere. Any changes to a public service in which people rely on require a public process. Unfortunately, this plan was not designed with the community’s input or from an equity framework that prioritizes accessibility, cost, safety, or environmental implications. The community is open to working with RIDOT to designing a plan that improves public transit in or city and state. I urge residents to reach out to the Governor and the Department of Transportation to express their continued opposition.”
The current plan was proposed with little public input and data to support the siting of new hub locations. Several community members from around the state have expressed opposition to the proposed redesign of routes and bus stops from Kennedy Plaza to near the Providence Train Station.
“I have serious concerns about the proposed RIDOT Multi Hub Bus plan, and strongly urge RIDOT to change their current proposal,” stated Councilman John Goncalves. “I have had several constituents from Ward 1 express significant concerns about the proposed Dyer Street/Innovation District Hub, and the plan as it stands will disproportionately inconvenience low-income communities, seniors, and persons with disabilities. I fully understand and support the need to beautify Kennedy Plaza for our downtown residents and visitors alike, but not at the expense of the most vulnerable amongst us.”
Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris shared, “This is not just a transit issue, but an equity issue. Transit riders come from predominantly low-income communities, are people of color, have disabilities, or are seniors. If RIDOT continues with these plans, they will only be making it more difficult for these marginalized groups to have a reliable way to get to work on time or get home safely. Any plans to drastically change public transportation should prioritize the input of the people who rely on RIPTA every day. This is why I am planning to hold an URPP meeting next week so that the Council may engage in discussion with the community regarding this proposal.”
The resolution was referred to the URRP [spelled out] Committee which will convene Wed. September 9th at 5:00 to hear from the stakeholders regarding the proposed resolution.
Upon passage, this resolution will be sent to Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, The Director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, the Chief Executive Officer of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority, and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza.