So I attended the meeting. Here’s my take away on this.
The politicians WANT a streetcar line in the city of Providence. It isn’t a question of getting either the current nor elected mayor on board with this.
However I brought up some points at the forum as did many others about the fact that the study premise is false. The Core Connector is using already developed areas such as Brown University, and the Lifespan group on the south end to anchor their streetcar proposals. But in their own documentation they show a depressed area of Portland, WA called the Pearl District in before and after pictures. I have to scan it for you to see it, the before picture is grey, boring, lifeless. The after picture with the streetcar shows color, trees, people, it’s night and day.
It makes sense to put fixed track into economically depressed areas. Over and over studies, and this by the Core Connector groups own studies, show that for ever $1 spent, the economic return is $4. So if we spend $66,000,000 to build a 2.4 mile streetcar line, the benefit is $264,000,000. If we spend $200,000,000 the benefit would be nearly a billion dollars!
Several of us made the point that the West end and Olneyville sections of the city seem to have been completely ignored. One of the RIPTA folks, Mark Therrien who is the Assistant General Manager – Transit System Development/Planning/Grants made a point that the #27 bus line would be made a BRT line. This would means stops every 1,000 feet, as opposed to the few hundred now.
But I know why they’ve chosen the #27. It’s all state roads, and the state has been going gangbusters installing ITS capable traffic lights all over the city. It’s just a little module that snaps into the control boxes that would allow buses in general to hold green lights. That would be a BIG plus for transit.
But one thing I hear, over and over again from people who would like to take the bus but hate the idea of transferring downtown. I think that RIPTA is trying to address that but like it or not, Kennedy Plaza and the PVD airport are transit hubs, no matter how you slice it.
I made mention the funding aspect. I’m going to be posting a template letter for RIPTA and everyone to hit up our federal legislators for the money to make a REAL streetcar system a reality in the city. We had them until 1948, we can have them again. Congress loves to fund the capital budgets of transit agencies but they don’t like to fund the operating side. One has to wonder why that little fact emerges all the time.
I pointed out that I find it ludicrous that we can spend close to a billion dollars to move a highway, yet we can’t find a couple hundred million to put in a decent streetcar system. Therrien asked that we write our congressmen and senators and so I will.
While there I had a brief meeting with our new city councilor Bryan Principe. Bryan gets it. He understands my arguments about the money. I mentioned that I’ll be lobbying our congressmen to have all highway projects have 20% of their budget funneled toward public transit projects. Think about it, this makes sense. What you can’t spend on expanding a highway, you spend on transit systems that negate the need to build more highway.
In Providence, we just moved I-195 to the tune of a billion so that would have netted $200,000,000 for public transit. Put it this way, RIPTA’s operating budget is $100,000,000 a year.
They’re going to have to replace the viaduct here in Providence too. That one should cost about a half billion. And then there’s the replacement of the Pawtucket River Bridge in Pawtucket and that’s going to be a fairly pricey affair too.
Figure $700,000,000 for both. My 20% proposal would mean that $140,000,000 would go to public transit.
We need to start moving away from a car-centric country to a public transit centered one, like Europe.
And what better way to do so than to penalize car infrastructure projects.