Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

A Better Commuter Rail Expansion Plan for Providence

My latest post is online over at Greater City Providence and is called “For Commuter Rail, Better Service to Boston, Not Southward Extensions” in which I argue that faster and more frequent connectivity between the urban core of the region and downtown Boston is far more important than adding stops in South County.

Rhode Island recently spent a large sum of money to extend MBTA commuter rail service south to TF Green Airport and Wickford Junction. Both of them feature large parking garages (although the TF Green Interlink facility is for more than rail transit) that are not typical of suburban train stations and were very expensive.

These stations are only served by select trains on weekdays only, and feature long journey times to Boston – 1:35 from TF Green and 1:50 from Wickford Junction. Though these stations can be useful for commuting to downtown Providence – I’ve used the TF Green service for that myself – Providence is not nearly the employment market Boston is. What’s more, the Wickford Junction station is in a particularly inauspicious location.

Unsurprisingly, ridership is low. TF Green had about 200 passengers per day as of last summer, and Wickford Junction about 150.

With a mind-numbing total price tag of $100 million for this project (the estimated cost of just the transit portions) – almost $300,000 per rider – it’s unlikely that this will ever be viewed as a successful project.

2 Comments
Topics: Transportation
Cities: Providence

2 Responses to “A Better Commuter Rail Expansion Plan for Providence”

  1. urbanleftbehind says:

    Waukegan IL faces a variation of the same dilemma – the biggest need is for a faster (sub 60 minute) train that arrives in downtown Chicago by 7 to 7:30am. Frequency is not as much of an issue, and the further north stations of Kenosha, Winthrop harbor and Zion were legacies from the old CNW and North Shore days. The similar collar county “hood” town of Aurora has 55 minute near express service to Union Station enabled by a 3 track ROW on the BNSF railway. RTA pulled the 3rd track from the CNW line in the late 70s.

  2. Lou says:

    Im pretty sure that the current expansion of commuter rail south of Providence long term goal is to serve both Westerly and Kingston as well as towns not served in between Providence and Westerly by amtrak. Eventually The service will be spun of from the MBTA to only serve RI and maybe some nonstop service between Providence and Boston. TF Green Airport and Wickford Junction are only the first phase of the project. more can be read here http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=65&t=21973

    “Gleaning from various separate sources on the RIDOT site, the sequence for service buildout that they’re going for appears to be something like this:
    — finish Wickford Jct.
    — Kingston (ongoing) + Westerly (up next) high platforms and Amtrak passing tracks to close out all existing Amtrak station work
    — new Pawtucket/Central Falls station (slightly south of historic station) + associated FRIP track work to Boston Switch. Grant app is submitted for doing final design.
    — 2nd platform at T.F. Green w/Amtrak Regional service and increased T schedules.
    — 2nd platform at Wickford.
    — infill stop at Cranston between Providence and T.F. Green.
    — infill stop at East Greenwich between T.F. Green and Wickford.
    …then initiation of full South County CR Pawtucket-Westerly w/infill stop at West Davisville. Reconfiguration of MBTA services accordingly (TBD…terminate at T.F. Green? Depends on whether it’s them or Amtrak who gets to be contracted operator)
    …then (concurrent?) initiation of Woonsocket-Providence CR w/stops at Woonsocket (historic station), Manville/Route 99, Berkley/Route 122/I-295, Pawtucket (NEC), Providence, T.F. Green.
    …then depending on choice of diesel/electric/(dual-mode?) equipment, full cross-state Woonsocket-Westerly thru service covering 3/4 of state’s population.
    …third Amtrak-only island platform at T.F. Green for all service stopping there + freight gauntlet track on 1 outermost track for P&W clearances. (p 38)”

    and an offical document here … http://www.dot.ri.gov/intermod/#commrail2

    and for Woonsocket here … http://www.dot.state.ri.us/documents/intermodal/WoonComRailFinalRpt.pdf

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