It has taken a while, but finally Ocean State residents are starting to see the benefits of taking the train to work locally, something that people in major metro areas all over the world take advantage of on a daily basis.
Of course, being independent people, Rhode Islanders have not been stampeding to the MBTA station in Warwick (otherwise known as the Interlink) or the newly opened Wickford Junction in North Kingstown. But traffic is increasing, and there is reason to believe that it will continue to do so and in the process make the state a more livable, green place.
The cause for optimism is driven by the experience of commuter rail in Providence, where 2,000 people per day take the train to Boston. Ridership for that service started slowly as well, totaling about 200 per day when it began in 1988.
By comparison, a year-and-a-half since it started, a daily average of 178 people use the Warwick station (based on the latest figures available from April). And the Wickford Junction stop averaged 119 per day during May, the first full month of operation.
Both figures should grow, as more people adjust their schedules to take advantage of the low-stress nature of commuting by rail (just ask those Rhode Islanders who take the train to Boston if they would rather drive), and as the capital city’s economy improves and more jobs start to fill the more than 1 million square feet of vacant office space in Providence.
The advantages are broader than lower blood pressure for commuters. Fewer cars on the road mean less pollution and congestion, both immediate and long-term benefits. And a more civilized place to live. •