Get-together seeks answers on improved transit

Local motion
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  October 17, 2007
Angeles drivers aren’t the only ones who can’t give up their dependence on cars. Rhode Island is small enough that the distance from Watch Hill to Woonsocket could be a mere spur line in a bigger city’s mass transit system. Yet even with regular ozone alerts in summer, and even though America’s oil addiction has led to wars and corporate governance, it remains very easy to just hop into our cars.
 
Two upcoming events will try to nudge Rhode Islanders to put the “us” back into “bus,” as the Sierra Club puts it, and build support for related solutions.
 
A one-day conference, “Getting There: Transportation for a Prosperous, Sustainable Rhode Island,” will take place in downtown Providence on Thursday, October 25. The keynote speaker is Charles Hale, the commissioner of planning who was responsible for building the country’s first new streetcar, in Portland, Oregon, in 50 years. (Hale will also speak that evening, from 5:30 to 8 pm at Local 121.) The program is free, but sign-up is required. Registration for the panel discussions on mass transit and “individual transit” (think bicycles) is $35. For information, call 401.228.7930.
 
Also coming up are three public slide talks and forums, titled “Renegotiation Growth, Transportation & Affordable Housing in South County,” which will look at three projects of architect and urban planner Troy West.
 
“Dale Carlia Intersection: A Pedestrian-Friendly Alternative to Car-Dominated Planning,” a suggestion for Wakefield, will occur October 24 at Peace Dale Library; “Tower Hill Development Design Project,” is October 25 at Kingston Free Library; a talk about a light rail loop proposal, follows on October 29 at Cross Mills Library in Charlestown. Models for the projects are on view at the libraries. For information, call 401.783.0587.
 
Mark Therrien, assistant general manager of planning at the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority, will be one of the panelists on October 25. He sees the state transit system at a crossroads.
 
“Our ridership is up through the roof — we’re averaging about a 7 percent increase per year for five years, which is tremendous,” Therrien says. “We are at a ‘Where do we go from here?’ point. Gas prices and the many other reasons more people are using transit — well, it's maxing out the transit system in Rhode Island.”
 
What sort of suggestions are likely to emerge from a transportation study that the state is about to begin?
 
“Different things,” he says. “The potential for bus rapid transit — allowing people to go faster on their trips. Metropolitan is definitely the focus for Rhode Island. Included in that, we'll look at the potential for streetcars or light rail. Light rail is very expensive, so I have a prejudice against trying to fund it.”
 
Speaking of funding, what do affected communities think about costs?
 
“Do they support us going into more intensive transit systems?” asks Therrien.
 
With enough public forums about mass transit, we just might find out.
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  Topics: This Just In , Public Transportation, Transportation, Train Travel,  More more >
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